Drop 71 of 78 pesticide charges, judge advises state

Published March 24, 2007

MIAMI - A judge recommended Florida dismiss the majority of nearly 80 charges against Ag-Mart Produce Inc. for violating state pesticide regulations, citing a lack of evidence.

But farmworkers whose son was born without arms and legs after they worked in the tomato grower's fields vowed to press forward with a suit against the company, their lawyer said.

Administrative Law Judge Lawrence Stevenson in Tampa recommended the dismissal of 71 charges against the company and upheld seven. The company previously consented to four additional charges, and could be fined about $11,000, said Terence McElroy of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Most of the alleged violations related to workers returning to fields too soon after spraying.

The charges were levied after several farmworker families alleged the use of pesticides on Ag-Mart fields in North Carolina and Florida contributed to birth defects. At least two of the families returned to Mexico, but Francisca Herrera and Abraham Candelario, whose baby Carlos was born without limbs, remained in the United States and filed a lawsuit against Ag-Mart.