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Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
NIOSH refers to as priority populations for the period 1997-2006, the cumulative adjusted budget devoted to child safety was slightly more than $14 million, for fishing safety $2.4 million, for logging safety $0.2 million, and for “migrant and minority” populations an estimated $2.1 million (NIOSH Response to Question #5, 2007, see Appendix C). NIOSH has yet to allocate substantial resources that are consistent with the task force’s recommendations for hired farm workers.
NIOSH has not accurately identified the hired farm workforce and continues to refer to this population as migrant and seasonal farm workers. Federal definitions of this population for the purpose of providing funds for education, health services, and legal services limits the eligible population to crop workers, but also includes food-processing workers. Furthermore, NIOSH has stated that “farm workers provide a good example of a population of non-English speaking, low-literacy immigrant workers who migrate between a series of temporary jobs” (Fine, 1996). That definition of the hired labor force is obsolete and unhelpful: although many hired farm workers are non-English speakers, some do speak English; 42 percent of hired farm workers migrate to find work, but most do not migrate (U.S. DOL, 2005); and many hired farm workers are immigrants, but quite a few are not. Moreover, large numbers of hired farm laborers work in livestock production, excluded from the current “migrant and seasonal” definitions. The basis of the inaccurate characterization of the hired workforce is federal legislation that funds services to address needs of “migrant and seasonal” workers, and cannot be attributed to NIOSH alone.
The AFF Program has conducted decent work but many opportunities for improvement remain, including the setting of priorities with stakeholder input and a focus on research of utmost importance to and impact on AFF worker safety and health. The new challenge is to create a cohesive program that establishes strategic goals with the input of stakeholders so that researchers will understand the issues facing AFF workers, conduct surveillance of all subpopulations of AFF workers, and create a research-to-practice stream of information that will have an impact on the stakeholder communities. Successful implementation of the research-to-practice component of the AFF Program will need to include participatory involvement at the ground level to provide data to answer stakeholder questions, identify how stakeholders access information, and create a continuous discussion with stakeholders. Given the programmatic gaps and challenges, the committee offers suggestions and more formal recommendations in Chapters 11 and 12 to build on the efforts of the AFF Program to date and to improve the entire system of NIOSH research and knowledge transfer activities.