OP-ED: Food Supply Depends on Vaccinated Workers
It takes a community to feed a community. Nebraska consumers depend upon the health and safety of farm, processing, and manufacturing workers to keep markets open and food moving from the farm to grocery stores and restaurants. As we saw last spring and summer, disruptions in processing food products due to illness within processing plants impacted food availability, stability, and prices throughout the entire supply chain.
Specifically, the health and well-being of meatpacking employees is an essential factor to ensuring the success of the livestock industry in Nebraska. The safety of these employees is a high priority for cattlemen and women, and we value them as an irreplaceable part of our team and community. As the COVID19 pandemic has progressed, meatpacking companies have been proactive in initiating numerous new protocols focused on maintaining the health and safety of these vital industry participants. The state of Nebraska needs to build upon these measures and expedite necessary plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to these individuals.
The National Academies of Science (NAS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) independently and meticulously determined that front line agricultural workers are “essential” to the economy and recommended prioritizing these workers behind health care professionals and other vulnerable individuals. Even though processing plant employees are in group 1B of Nebraska’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, front line agriculture and food workers need to remain a priority behind the obvious top tier recipients in Nebraska.
Farmers, ranchers, transporters, plant workers – all take pride in the work they do and depend on the health, safety, and success of each other in delivering food in a safe and timely manner to consumers. Providing early and prioritized access to safeguards needed to keep those who produce and process food products healthy is paramount to keeping people fed and prospering in Nebraska.
Written by: William H. Rhea III, Nebraska Cattlemen President