Officials work to protect valley farmers amid poor air quality

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) – The Central Valley is spending another day under smoky skies as fire crews continue to tackle 10 major wildfires burning across the state.

As smoke from the Windy and KNP complex fires settles in the Central Valley, Fresno County Agricultural Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen is doing everything in his power to protect the valley’s farm workers.

Jacobsen says: “On a day like today you are at a higher temperature, you feel like the humidity is higher than normal. You have the layer of smoke above us that sometimes reaches the bottom of the valley. Every hour it seems There are times when it seems the air quality seems to be improving and the weather is fine and the sky is blue, and then in a very short time the wind turns and turns. pass the IQA through the roof.

Cal OSHA protections are in place, requiring outdoor employers to provide N95 respirators to their employees when the AQI is above 151

With over 7,600 forest fires burning this year alone, it’s not a question of “if” but “when” air quality reaches these levels.

“Here in the Valley, we are seeing numbers above 300 in the AQI, so this is a very critical time to make sure that we take the health and safety of our employees very seriously,” said Jacobsen.

Just as they did in response to the pandemic, the Fresno County Farm Bureau continues to distribute N95 respirators as they are a vital part of the food chain. Something state lawmakers hope to formalize.

MP Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) said: “What our bill seeks to do is just build on this ‘first national standard’ that exists in California, that is to say to include agricultural workers in the list of essential workers. There are supply problems for the future, which they can draw from the state’s stock of N95 masks. “

AB 73 is also calling on state agencies to provide training materials educating farm workers on wildfire smoke safety.

Rivas went on to say, “Farmers today, they work harder and die younger than any other class of people here in the United States than any other worker and so as we continue to live with this pandemic. global, as they continue to do the essential work to feed us. “

Governor Newsom has until October 10 to sign the bill.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All rights reserved.

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