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More than 400,000 children work in American fields to harvest the food we all eat

Children working in agriculture endure lives of extreme poverty

  • The average farmworker family makes less than $17,500 a year, well below the poverty level for a family of four.
  • Poverty among farmworkers is two times that of workers in other occupations
  • Farmworkers can be paid hourly, daily, by the piece or receive a salary, but they are always legally exempt from receiving overtime and often from receiving even minimum wage.
  • Families often cannot afford childcare and so have no choice but to bring their children out into the fields.
  • Increasing the incomes of migrant farmworkers by 40% would add just $15 to what the average US household spends every year on fruits and vegetables, according to a researcher at University of California Davis.

Children who work as farm laborers do not have access to proper education

  • Working hours outside of school are unlimited in agriculture.
  • On average, children in agriculture work 30 hours a week, often migrating from May – November, making it exceedingly difficult to succeed in school.
  • Almost 40% of farm workers migrate and their children suffer the instability of a nomadic lifestyle, potentially working in multiple states in a given season and attending multiple schools each with a different curriculum and standards.
  • Migrant children drop out of school at 4 times the national rate.

Children face health hazards and fatalities in the fields

  • According to the USDA, agriculture is the most hazardous occupation for child workers in the US
  • The risk of fatal injuries for children working in agriculture is 4 times that of other young workers.
  • Child farm workers are especially vulnerable to repetitive-motion injury
  • Farmworkers labor in extreme temperatures and die from heat exposure at a rate 20 times that of other US workers and children are significantly more susceptible to heat stress than adults. Heat illness can lead to temporary illness, brain damage, and death.
  • Farmworkers are provided with substandard housing and sanitation facilities. As many as 15%-20% of farms lack toilets and drinking water for workers, even though they are required to provide them. Farms with 10 or fewer workers are not required to provide them at all.
  • EPA pesticide regulations are set using a 154-pound adult male as a model. They do not take children or pregnant women into consideration.
  • Research indicates that child farmworkers have a much higher rate of acute occupational pesticide-related illness than children in other industries and that there is a strong link between pesticide exposure and developmental disabilities. Long-term exposure in adults is associated with chronic health problems such as cancer, neurologic problems, and reproductive problems.
  • 64% of farmworkers do not get healthcare because it is "too expensive"
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