Mexican workers get green light as flu eases

05/11/2009 10:33:43 AM
Tom Karst

Worries that the H1N1 flu would interrupt the flow of Mexican H-2A workers to U.S. farms have been alleviated, according to one labor industry leader.

Dan Bremer, president of AgWorks Inc, Lake Park, Ga., said that U.S. consulate offices in Mexico were set to reopen on May 11 after closing on April 28. All the appointments to grant visa to potential guest workers lost because of the H1N1 outbreak were being rebooked.

"If they open on (May 11), and schedule everyone in that was left out because of the H1N1 virus, everything will work out okay," Bremer said.

Crops in the Southeast are a little behind because of cool weather which will buy growers with H-2A workers a little time.

Industry and media inquiries about the flu have declined substantially.

Most of the initial concern from the trade related to the concern of borders being closed, the flow of commerce and the possibility of shipments of produce being delayed or cancelled said Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications with the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

Gilmer said May 7 that federal authorities have assured the public that food and food handling is not a way the virus is spread. The uncertainty about the virus has diminished, though there is a concern it could come back in a more virulent from next winter, Gilmer said.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned employers of migrant workers to avoid stigmatizing them, but encourage employees to report illnesses and keep ill employees from working.



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