Can Food & Ag Make ‘The List’?

Nov 17, 2020

There’s light at the end of the tunnel.

In the same week where the U.S. recorded more than 1 million new COVID-19 cases in six days, developments on vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna resulted in 90%+ effectiveness. Plus, timelines point to available doses being dispensed for priority groups in early 2021.

So after healthcare workers and high-risk individuals, the food industry has raised its hand to be next-in-line.

Fifteen food and agriculture groups sent notice to both the White House and President-Elect Joe Biden’s transition team pleading for food and agriculture workers to be designated as ‘high priority’ for getting the vaccine.

The letter was signed by heavy-hitters in the food industry like:
→ North American Meat Institute
→ International Dairy Foods Association
→ United Fresh Produce Association
How we got here: Rewind to March when food and meat processing plants were operating on pins and needles. When concerns around shortages crept up, President Trump enacted the Defense Production Act to keep plants open as they were ‘critical infrastructure.’

The challenge became to keep operations running and outbreaks at a minimum.

But the stats are rough. 73,000 positive workers. At least 331 deaths. Add in that 1,198 plants had to temporarily shut down or slow production, and the evidence mounts for priority vaccine status.

On the bright side: At the state level, food companies are getting their way. Many plans have food and ag workers near the top of the list for priority when vaccines can be allocated. Now, the industry just wants federal support.

Looking ahead: Temperature checks and plastic barriers can only work so well. Don’t be surprised if pop-up vaccination stations appear at the country’s largest food production sites in early 2021.