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State ag leaders urge rural areas toward COVID vaccinations

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Recently, more than 30 state and national agricultural organizations representing state departments of agriculture, farming, and agribusiness communities joined together to promote vaccination among farmers and rural Americans. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture joined this effort by signing an open letter that encourages farmers, ranchers, and all involved in agriculture to get vaccinated.

The letter said, “To enable informed choices, it is critical that accurate information be heeded — and there has been no shortage of scientific data that supports the effectiveness and necessity of the COVID-19 vaccines. We know that you make science-based decisions every day –whether those decisions are how best to protect your crops or your livestock. Now, however, we need your help in ensuring the health of your families and your communities, which is why we urge you to support vaccinations in your community.”

The effort comes as recent data show that there were 300 percent more hospitalizations this Labor Day weekend than there were a year ago, a time when many saw the coronavirus pandemic being at a peak. Since the beginning of the year, rural doctors have reported that acceptance of the COVID vaccine has been slow in their areas. Partisanship has played a role in that, as has the fact that rural communities are naturally more socially distanced than urban ones, so there’s a perception of lower risks.

Currently, the cases of COVID-19 have largely centered on the Delta lineage, which is increasing precipitously among the unvaccinated populations across the country. Many rural communities have been hit hard by the Delta lineage, which has stressed healthcare systems and threatens to greatly impact those we depend on for a safe food system.

Agricultural leaders are asking farmers to protect their health and their communities by getting vaccinated. The open letter urged the federal government to make farmers and other food industry workers a higher priority in U.S. vaccination campaigns. It also noted that the best way to defeat coronavirus is to unify communities into receiving the vaccine.

“You know how powerful an individual decision can be,” the letter said. “The decision you make on your farm today will feed your family and consumers around the world. Your choices and your dedication keep families and communities healthy. And just like these farm decisions, the decisions you make now can help ensure the months and years ahead are much brighter as we wrestle COVID-19 to the ground. In farm country, we talk a lot about rolling up our sleeves to get the job done in our fields and pastures. Now it is time that we join together and roll up our sleeves one more time to get this job done.”

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