Cornfield in Illinois


David McEllis

Illinois Legislature Passes Stronger Pesticide Protections

After a group of farmworkers were exposed to harmful pesticides, ELPC & partners filed suit & fought for stronger state standards.

This week, the Illinois House passed Senate Bill 203, sponsored by Rep. Dagmara “Dee” Avelar (D – Bolingbrook) to help protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure. This legislation increases fines for human pesticide exposure incidences. in March the bill passed the Senate where it was carried by Sen. Karina Villa (D – West Chicago) by a vote of 51-2. On Monday May 8, 2023 the bill passed the House by a vote of 80-24 and will be sent to Governor JB Pritzker to sign. When signed, this fine increase will deter careless pesticide usage and bring real justice for working people in our essential agricultural sector.

Why was this necessary?

The bill was inspired by a particularly egregious set of incidents that harmed multiple farmworkers in central Illinois, with minimal repercussions in Illinois state law. In 2019, 27 farmworkers were sprayed with pesticides on more than one occasion while working in Illinois corn fields and were just expected to return to work. ELPC joined Legal Aid Chicago, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in filing a federal lawsuit against Pioneer Hi-Bred, its corporate parent Corteva Inc., and aerial applicator companies.

Read more about that case here

But the law was not strong enough, and the Department of Agriculture imposed a fine of only $750 on those responsible for spraying the workers in DeWitt County. So, state Senator Villa worked with ELPC, Legal Action Chicago, and Illinois Environmental Council to change that.

How will the new law work?

Any individual found to have used a pesticide in a manner inconsistent with the label that results in human exposure will soon face higher penalties. The amount of the penalty will escalate based on the number of humans exposed. Under the new penalty structure, if 1-2 humans are exposed, the penalty will be $500 per person. For 3-4 humans exposed, the penalty will be $750 per person. And, if 5 or more humans are exposed, the penalty will be $1,250 per person.

As Senator Villa said, “this legislation aims to hold those who expose others to pesticide responsible and to ensure safe conditions for farmworkers are met. With the passage of this legislation from the Senate, I hope workers no longer need to worry about pesticide exposure.”


David McEllis,

Illinois Legislative Director

David McEllis is the Illinois Legislative Director at ELPC, working on current Illinois energy legislative issues.

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