Last year it was ensuring worker safety in the early stage of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the focus is making sure workers have access to vaccines.
It’s a tale of two seasons but one constant remains – COVID-19, says Allison Crittenden, Director of Congressional Relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
“I think if you zoom out to when the pandemic first started, we were very concerned about the ability of our workers to even get to our farms and be able to work. As soon as they got here, we were incredibly concerned and put measures in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus and prevent anybody from getting sick. Not only do we care about these individuals and their health, but with labor intensive agriculture, you have to have the workers there to help you plant the crop and harvest it,” Crittenden said. “If folks are not feeling well or if they have coronavirus, that can certainly limit the folks that are able to get the job done on the farm.
“We care about our employees, and we want to make sure we’re able to produce our food supply. We know we can’t do that without them. It’s really important that these essential workers have access to vaccines, so we don’t have to deal with any of the uncertainties that we did in our last summer and last growing season and harvest.”
Education is Key
Crittenden said American Farm Bureau Federation has joined the White House COVID Community Corps, which centers on vaccine messaging and encouraging people to get their shot. She’s hopeful that by being part of this educational initiative, they’ll have access to tools to help people understand the vaccine’s benefits.
“We know that farmers and ranchers and their employees haven’t had the option to telework, because of that, that’s why we’ve advocated for food and Ag to have prioritized access to the vaccine. We’re very pleased that supply is ramping up. Now that we’re moving, hopefully, away from demand concerns, we’re able to focus our effort only on continuing to make sure food and Ag is prioritized. But we also want to ensure folks in agriculture understand the importance of getting the vaccine and that it’s safe and effective,” Crittenden said.
President Joe Biden also bumped up the deadline for all adults to be eligible for the vaccine by April 19.
“It certainly sounds like things are opening up when it comes to vaccines and vaccine availability,” Crittenden said. “We certainly recognize it’s a medical choice and voluntary. But we want folks to understand this is an important step to finally being done with this pandemic.”