Farm Bureau: Weeding rules must allow flexibility
» September 24, 2004 «
California farmers already follow the toughest worker-safety standards in the world, and the California Farm Bureau Federation is concerned that emergency state regulations on hand weeding may be a difficult balancing act for farmers. The state Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted the regulation yesterday.
"The health and safety of farmworkers is a paramount concern for California farmers and ranchers," California Farm Bureau Federation President Bill Pauli said. "California farmers strive to provide consumers with the highest-quality food, while operating under the strictest worker-safety regulations in the world. These new regulations make that more complicated."
If approved by the Office of Administrative Law, the regulation will take effect by Oct. 7. It prohibits hand weeding "unless there is no readily available or reasonable alternative." Employers will be required to justify the necessity for hand weeding. The regulation allows "occasional or intermittent" hand weeding.
"We agree that unnecessary hand weeding should be banned, and we supported that aspect of the new state regulation," Pauli said. "It is important to note that the new regulation does not ban hand weeding outright."
He said most farms will not be affected by the new rules. Most crops are weeded mechanically or by workers who use long-handled tools. But hand weeding has been a necessary technique, especially for vegetables, nursery crops, flowers and organically grown commodities.
"If the rules are enforced as they should be," Pauli added, "farmers of the affected crops will retain the flexibility to weed crops by hand when necessary. If not, the alternative in many cases will be to use more herbicides to kill weeds, and farmers don't want to do that."
The emergency regulation will be in effect for 120 days, and Pauli said Farm Bureau will provide affected members with the information needed to comply.
"Farm Bureau and its affiliate, the Farm Employers Labor Service, offer sophisticated worker-safety programs to help farmers comply with the latest rules and regulations," he said.
"Our members seek fair and flexible regulations that protect workers and allow farmers to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of crops, weather and a fiercely competitive marketplace," Pauli said.
The California Farm Bureau Federation is the state's largest farm organization, representing more than 89,000 member families statewide.
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