Local News

Hearing begins in pesticide violation case

Posted September 9, 2008 6:34 p.m. EDT
Updated September 10, 2008 8:54 a.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Pesticide Board on Tuesday began hearing the case of a farm manager facing more than $100,000 in fines.

Jeff Oxley, who works for commercial tomato grower Ag-Mart in southeastern North Carolina, is accused of more than 200 violations. The state says he forced workers back in the fields too soon after dangerous pesticides were applied.

State officials began to investigate the pesticides in 2004 after several workers gave birth to babies with deformities. One of the mothers who gave birth to a deformed baby is expected to testify Wednesday.

The case prompted Gov. Mike Easley to appoint a task force in January to look into the issue of farm workers' exposure to pesticides.

The task force made recommendations to the General Assembly, some of which passed, but farm-worker advocates say the effort falls far short of what is needed to protect workers.

They say they worry that the state agency that enforces pesticide regulations puts the interests of the agricultural industry ahead of worker safety.

The issue was the subject of a recent WRAL News Focal Point documentary, "Practical Application," which aired Aug. 20.