Monday, March 31, 2008

Farmworker Awareness Week

This is Farmworker Awareness Week, and a time to reflect, learn more, and support the millions of farmworkers whose labor puts food on every American table.

It's estimated that in North Carolina, about 100,000 - 150,000 farmworkers plant, tend and harvest our crops every year, particularly in labor-intensive crops like tomatoes, vegetables, Christmas trees and tobacco. The large majority of North Carolina's farmworkers are migrants who move from place to place following the harvest. The average annual income for a farmworker in the United States is about $11,000, or about $16,000 for farmworking family (though pay on the East Coast is lower than the national average). Farmworkers live in overcrowded housing, few receive health care or unemployment benefits, and about half of North Carolina's farmworkers cannot afford enough food for themselves and their families.

Farmworkers are also disproportionately exposed to hazardous pesticides on the job. A recent study in eastern North Carolina found multiple pesticide residues on the hands and in the urine of farmworker chidren. Many of you have followed the Ag-Mart case: last week the company settled for millions of dollars with the family of a boy, Carlitos Candelario, who was born with multiple severe birth defects, which his parents attribute to their hazardous working conditions at Ag-Mart.

This week you can attend events to learn about the rich history and culture of farmworkers in the United States, and you can take action to support better working conditions for the people who harvest our food. When you sit down to your next meal, please also take a moment to give thanks for the hardworking hands who brought it to you.

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