Daily News Archive
March 2, 2006
Department Rejects Ag-Mart Settlement; Parents Sue for Birth Defects
(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2006) Florida state agriculture
department has refused to accept a settlement from Ag-Mart, after charging
the company with 88 counts of pesticide violations. Ag-Mart
was fined $111,200 as a result of these violations, and offered
to pay the department $25,000 less in the settlement. The pesticide
violations stem from an investigation conducted by the Collier County
Health Department and Florida department of Agriculture last September,
that found a link between the pesticides sprayed by Ag-Mart on tomato
fields, and after a number of babies were born with severe birth defects
to farmworkers employed by the company. Although the investigation did
not lead to any links between the birth defects and the pesticides used
on the Ag-Mart tomato fields, it did shed light on a number of violations
for worker safety protections from pesticides and residues. Florida
was the first to sue Ag-Mart, followed by the North Carolina Department
of Agriculture, which fined Ag-Mart $184,500 for 369 pesticide violations.
The senior attorney
with the Office of General Counsel turned down the Ag-Mart’s settlement
offer, saying the case would be referred to the Division of Administrative
Hearings, putting the decision about how much Ag-Mart would pay for
its violations in the hands of an administrative law judge.
According to an article in Naples News, Ag-Mart's attorney David Stefany
requested another meeting with Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services officials to continue discussions of a settlement.
But the department declined.
Ag-Mart faces more legal trouble this week as the parents of one of
the children born with severe birth defects
has decided to sue. Francisca Herrera and Abraham Canderlario, farworkers
who worked for Ag-Mart farms in Florida, are suing for unspecified damages.
After working the in the fields while pregnant, Francisca gave birth
to a son with no arms and no legs and spinal and lung abnormalities.
The couple’s attorney, Andrew Yaffa, has said that this is only
one of many pesticide related lawsuits he plans to file against the