Thursday, March 5, 2020

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Discusses Environmental Justice!

Feb. 25th-27th, the Farmworker Association had an important opportunity to discuss environmental racism and justice issues with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The occasion arose from the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council's meeting in Jacksonville, FL. This meeting allows different organizations and communities to speak with the Council, which advises the EPA on different environmental justice issues, providing a forum for environmental justice conversations and topics.

During the public meetings, Linda Lee spoke about her life as a farmworker and the issues of health in her farmworker community of Apopka. Linda had the opportunity to speak on a panel about farmworkers with other representatives from the Farmworker Association, including, Yesica Ramirez, Elvia Lopez, Linda Lee, Antonio Tovar, and Jeannie Economos.

The speakers on our panel made an amazing speech about a life of farmwork and the impact it can have on a community. This left the other NEJAC Council members speechless due to the power of the stories told. Additionally, Linda was able to display the red Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt, which many approached afterwards to observe and ask Linda questions about.

On the panel, Yesica and Elvia talked about their personal experiences working in nurseries and the working conditions, especially regarding exposure to pesticides. Antonio talked about the Farmworker Association's research project with Emory University that looks at levels of organophosphate pesticides and the fungicide Mancozeb in the urine of 100 farmworker women of reproductive age, which shows the high levels of pesticides in the urine. Jeannie Economos talked about the fact that farmworkers are often overlooked as being an environmental justice community because of many factors, including for some their migratory status following the harvesting seasons.

The NEJAC Public meeting provided a great space for the Farmworker Association to discuss farmworker rights and issues, as well as a place for Linda to retell her story and display the memorial quilt. By attending these discussions, the Farmworker Association hopes that the EPA will consider farmworkers' rights in future policy decisions!

The NEJAC took a trip to visit the Clara White Mission to learn about the great programs they are doing in the historically Black community there.

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