Agriculture planes park at an airport in Rantoul on July 29, 2014. The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing its standards on protections for farmworkers from pesticides.
Agriculture planes park at an airport in Rantoul, Ill. on July 29, 2014. The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing its standards on protections for farm workers from pesticides.

The Illinois Soybean Association is among several industries to oppose tighter regulations of pesticide protections for farm workers.

The group – which represents 45,000 soybean producers in the state – filed a letter last week as part of a public comment period on proposed updates to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.

The standard regulates farm worker protection from pesticides.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed updates to the standard earlier this year after spending more than a decade reviewing the regulation. The updates include changes to training, notification, hazard communication, minimum age and personal protective equipment.

“Worker and family safety is a high priority for Illinois soybean farmers,” the association wrote. “But we believe these proposed stronger regulation changes that apply to agricultural workers handling pesticides do not reflect the diversity and unique needs of agricultural operations throughout the country, are too restrictive for many operations in Illinois and impose unnecessary costs that will affect our bottom lines.”

If enacted, the proposed rules are expected to cost more than $72 million a year – or an average of $5 more per year per farm worker – but save up to $14 million a year in the reduced number of incidents, according to an EPA cost analysis. Preventing chronic illnesses as a result of pesticide accidents could save even more money.

Conversely, dozens of Congressional lawmakers have joined hundreds of others to push for better protection of farm workers and their exposure to pesticides.

In an Aug. 18 letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, Rep. Raul Grijalva  (D-Ariz.) and 70 others asked the federal agency to finalize stricter revisions to its Agricultural Worker Protection Standard than proposed.

“However, series flaws remain that perpetuate inequity and continue to leave men, women and children who produce our food less protected than other workers,” legislators wrote.

Legislators urged the EPA to set the minimum age of work as a pesticide handler to 18 years old, as in other industries.

They also requested that the EPA extend protection to farm workers in places next to fields that are treated with pesticides.

“There are approximately 500,000 child farm workers in the U.S., farm worker children face increased risks of cancer and birth defects,” lawmakers wrote.

The EPA closed the comment period this week on its proposed regulations.

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