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Climate Adaptation

Overheated, Underprotected: Climate Change Is Killing U.S. Farmworkers

Record heatwaves have caused fatalities for laborers who plant and harvest U.S. crops. A lack of federal standards and policies makes it difficult to protect these agricultural workers.

Workers harvest cantaloupe at a farm in California, on July 13. 

Workers harvest cantaloupe at a farm in California, on July 13. 

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Updated on

Florencio Gueta Vargas showed up for his usual shift at a hops farm in Toppenish, Washington, on Thursday, July 29. The father of six would never make it home. 

It was a sweltering day with temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in the fields, where Gueta Vargas and others were tending to the plants used to make beer. His boss found him slumped over a tractor around 3 p.m. An hour later, he was pronounced dead of heart disease that was exacerbated by the heat.