Florida governor vetoes bill to help farm workers who are sick from pesticides

From Barry Estabrook on his “Politics of the Plate” blog:

“No wonder Tea Party activists love Florida Governor Rick Scott. To save a pittance on the state’s budget, the new governor, who has a personal net worth of more than $200 million, thanks in part to being president of a healthcare company that perpetrated the biggest medical fraud in United States’ history, vetoed a bill earlier this month that finally would have brought relief to 2,500 poverty-plagued African American farm laborers who, over the course of five decades, were poisoned on a daily basis by a witch’s brew of pesticides.

I met Linda Lee, one of the afflicted workers, last summer when she took me on a “pesticide tour” of the land near Lake Apopka, a few miles northeast of Orlando. Leaning on her cane in the scorching midday June sun, Lee, who is 57, matter-of-factly listed her medical conditions: diabetes, lupus, high blood pressure, emphysema, and arthritis. Her hip had to be replaced and her gall bladder removed. Her kidneys failed, so she had a transplant. She also had two corneal implants. Asked what caused her woes, she didn’t hesitate: As a farm laborer on the shores of Lake Apopka in the 1970s and 1980s, she was routinely exposed to agricultural chemicals as she worked in the fields. “Plenty of my old friends and neighbors got what I got, and a lot of them got stuff I don’t want to get,” she told me.

In a survey of workers conducted in 2006, the Farmworker Association of Florida found that 92 percent of the agricultural workers in the region had been exposed to pesticides through a combination of aerial spraying, wind drifting from applications on adjacent fields, touching plants still wet with pesticides, and inhaling pesticides. In a state where the average incidence of birth defects is 3 percent, 13 percent of the Apopka workers had a child born with a defect.

For the last 12 years, The Farmworker Association has been trying to get someone—anyone—to pay attention to this cluster of illnesses and provide money to help those most in need. The state government was able to find $1.5 million to investigate illnesses and deaths in birds. It paid for research into why alligators around Apopka had smaller than normal penises, but not a nickel was spent on the laborers who spent their lives working, eating, and sleeping on the contaminated land.

Finally, state Senator Gary Siplin, a Democrat, put an allocation of $500,000 for the Apopka workers in the $70 billion 2011 budget. Surprisingly, that budget passed the house and senate, both overwhelmingly Republican, only to be vetoed by Gov. Scott. “We were so close,” said Lee. “The governor just canceled out our hard work. He broke the spirits of so many in South Apopka that really need health care and don’t receive it.”…”

Read it all on Politics of the Plate.com

1 Comment

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One response to “Florida governor vetoes bill to help farm workers who are sick from pesticides

  1. Steven Skelley

    Scott is a disgrace as a politician, a Floridian and as a human being.

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