This paper's goal is to describe the current health status of the farm labor workforce from a national perspective and to suggest future directions for interventions. Ideally, data would be derived from nationally representative cross-sectional studies of hired farm workers that included comprehensive physical examinations by third-party medical professionals. Because such national data does not exist, it was necessary to consider the few available statewide crosssectional studies that included medical examinations and to forge a national perspective from them.
For this paper, a hired farm worker is a person who is employed to perform tasks on a farm to directly produce an agricultural commodity intended for sale. Workers engaged in off-farm packing, handling or processing of farm products are not included. Hired livestock farm workers are considered on an equal basis with hired crop farm workers. Among the latter are persons employed to produce ornamental commodities, including flowers, ornamental plants and other nursery farm products, whether in an open field or in a greenhouse.
This paper focuses on health outcomes that are associated with occupational, environmental and individual risk factors, or are influenced by regulatory policy. Since there are no nationally representative studies of farm worker health that include comprehensive medical examinations, survey research about farm workers nationally is limited to self-reported health outcomes.