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Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in the Southeast: Immigrant Worker Health

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Agricultural production in the southeastern United States often requires the hand labor of agricultural workers, and much of this agricultural labor is provided by immigrant, migrant, and seasonal workers, who are largely Latinos/Hispanics from Mexico and other Central American nations, as well as Afro-Caribbeans. A growing number of hired immigrant workers are involved in the production of poultry and hogs in the Southeast due to the increasing demand for labor by confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The forestry and fisheries industries share many of the organizational and environmental characteristics of agricultural production. In the Southeast, like agriculture, immigrants are providing the labor needed by the forestry and fisheries industries. Similarities of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries include exposure to hazards in the natural environment, use of hazardous machinery, and unconventional work arrangements. Another characteristic common to the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries is the high rate of occupational injuries. However, although the number of immigrant workers in these industries continues to grow, efforts to delineate the occupational injuries which these workers experience and to reduce these occupational injuries have not kept pace. The proposed conference is being organized to address the occupational health and safety of immigrant workers in these industries. The long term goal of this conference is to improve safety in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, and reduce the occupational injuries and illnesses experienced by workers in these industries by facilitating new research, education, and engineering. This two day conference will achieve three specific aims: (1) consolidate and disseminate current knowledge on immigrant agriculture, forestry, and fisheries workers'health and safety by commissioning experts to write reviews of specific health and safety problems facing these workers;(2) delineate the most pertinent directions and areas for health and safety research for immigrant agricultural, forestry, and fisheries workers through the presentation and detailed discussion of the commissioned reports;and (3) facilitate the development of working groups to support the implementation of research, education, and engineering projects that can address the major directions and areas identified during the conference. Reports written for this working conference will be published. The conference is being organized by the Program for the Health and Safety of Agricultural Workers and Their Families, a new joint program of the Center for Worker Health, Wake Forest University School of Medicine (WFUSM) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT) which is focused on the health and safety of agricultural workers employed in the southeastern US. 1

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries employ larger numbers of immigrant workers. Workers in these industries experience high rates of occupational injuries. The conference proposed in this application will consolidate and disseminate current knowledge on occupational of immigrant workers in the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries. 1

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