Ron Rice and 130 employees at their food manufacturing plant, Upstate Farms Dairy, have not stopped working in the pandemic
"The state inspector from agriculture is pretty much here all the time to make sure we're doing what we need to be doing, as far as keeping our employees safe from COVID," said Rice, plant manager for Upstate Farms Dairy.
Food manufacturers, processors, and distributors continue to try to keep our food safe and things from going sour, but they feel forgotten by New York state in the vaccine process.
“The night before Phase 1B was opened up, we received information from the state that food and agriculture workers were not going to be eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1B,” said Alex Walsh, associate vice president of regulatory affairs in the North East Dairy Foods Association.
And no new plan, despite the CDC guidelines that food and agriculture workers be among the first vaccinated, has been instated.
“More and more of them are talking about it. They’re asking, why are we not on the list yet? We’ve been working through this whole pandemic and we’d like to be vaccinated,” said Rice.
“We do not want to jeopardize our food supply chain. They have been in the front lines and are considered essential workers,” said Walsh.
“It’s important to that our employees are safe, it’s important to me that our employees families are safe, and we’ve been doing a service for our community and the state of New York," said Rice. "Keeping the Milk on the shelves; we haven’t stopped. Somethings have, we have not. We’re in production Monday through Friday, 24 hours a day. Most of these products are going to schools; nursing homes,” said Rice.
“It’s really frustrating to see there’s left over supply, and that it’s just not able to be used yet because the state hasn’t opened up other working groups yet," said Walsh.
So, for now, farm workers continue to be essential workers that feel utterly forgotten.
New York State Food workers feel being added to the vaccination schedule is of the essence since any COVID-19 outbreaks at plants to severely impact the food supply affected thousands of families.