In February 2016, farm workers pruning peach orchards at Gerawan Farming (Prima brand) were sickened by pesticide drift from a neighboring farm while taking a break.
Worker Miguel Miranda describes the scene, "We entered work at 7am and I saw that on the west side of the field, there were some machines fumigating the almonds. In block 118D, five crews were working in the same area. We got out for lunch at 10am and they were still fumigating. One of the machines came out in front of two crews. Our crew was about 15 rows from where the machine came out of. The foreman didn’t make any attempt to move us from the area. After a while I felt my eyes burning. I know that many felt ill, but didn’t report anything due to fear of retaliation from the company.”
After their break was up, the workers were ordered to return to their rows with no medical attention even though they complained of nausea, dizziness, and eye irritation. Workers weren’t even able to change out of their pesticide-drenched clothes!
This wasn’t the first time workers were sickened by exposure to pesticides while laboring at Gerawan Farming. Thousands of farm worker supporters cried foul and insisted the authorities do something quickly. The Fresno County Ag Commissioner has yet to take action! In a prior incident, it took the Ag Commissioner 15 months to find Gerawan guilty of violating the law — and the $5,000 penalty amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.
This time, it’s been 16 months and this incident still remains under investigation. When we called the Fresno County Ag Commissioner on April 12th, we were told that these incidents take time to investigate. But during all this “time”, workers are left with no assurance that this won’t happen again. Shouldn’t their safety be a priority?
The CA Department of Pesticide Regulation's website says to contact them if you feel your complaint was not adequately investigated by your local Ag Commissioner's office. Fourteen months of hearing nothing is not adequate. Contact them now!
April 25, 2017
Updated June 6, 2017