EPA Backs Down, Will Implement Critical Safeguards for Agricultural Workers after Lawsuit by New York, California and Maryland

Thursday, June 14, 2018
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued the following statement on the news of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signaling that it will implement critical safeguards for agricultural workers that protect against exposure to pesticides. This news comes just two weeks after New York, California and Maryland filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s actions. 

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has backed down to do what the law requires: implement critical safeguards for agricultural workers. This is an important victory for some of America’s hardest workers and for the Rule of Law,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Day in, day out, our families enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables because of our agricultural workers, many of whom are immigrants living in California.”


The Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a regulation first implemented by the EPA in 1992 to reduce the number of illnesses and injuries to agricultural workers nationwide from exposures to pesticides.

In 2015, after determining that many incidents of pesticide exposure might have been avoided if farmworkers had better training, the EPA strengthened the WPS and required employers to provide agricultural workers and their families with new training. This new training resulted from more than 15 years of stakeholder meetings and the consideration of over 2,400 public comments. However, despite the availability of updated training materials, the Trump Administration’s EPA suspended the new training requirements without following the necessary public notice and comment procedures. On May 30, 2018, Attorneys General Underwood, Frosh, and Becerra filed suit alleging that the EPA’s suspension was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. 

Among other things, the training requirements that Administrator Pruitt had wanted to discard before the States filed suit allow agricultural workers to:   

  • Learn how to minimize family members' exposure to pesticides from contaminated clothing or footwear;
  • Access information about the hazards posed by particular pesticides; and
  • Ensure they are aware of guidelines for emergency medical care.
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