The U.S. government declared farmworkers essential in March 2020. The CDC has advised giving ag workers early access to vaccines, but different states have taken different approaches to that guidance. There are more than 50,000 ag workers in New York State. Despite that, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decided not to include them in Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout plan.

Researchers from Purdue University estimate that nearly 500,000 ag workers have tested positive for the virus – and at least 9,000 have died from it. Three thousand of those positive cases were in NYS.

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher stated, “It is frustrating that Governor Cuomo visited a location synonymous with New York agriculture, the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, to announce the expansion of the state’s COVID vaccine eligibility list, yet he still refuses to protect farmworkers … The CDC recommends that food and agricultural workers be eligible for their own safety and that of our food system. It is time to do what is right and prioritize the essential workers who help ensure New Yorkers have food on their tables.”

Miriam Jordan, a writer with the New York Times, said, “Ending the virus’s rampage through farm country has been one of the nation’s biggest challenges.” In California, thousands of workers are heading into pop-up vaccination clinics in the fields. The state’s Riverside County was the first in the nation to prioritize farm worker vaccinations, regardless of their age and health conditions.

New York State farm workers have pressured the government to put their employees on the priority list for vaccinations. Kim Skellie, dairy operations manager at EL-VI Farms in Newark, NY, said he understands the need to vaccinate other essential workers, but this doesn’t negate the need for NY farmworker vaccinations.