Push to vaccinate Florida's farmworkers

Posted at 8:26 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 20:26:41-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — A state leader says keeping food on Floridians’ tables means prioritizing farm workers for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Nikki Fried said her goal right now is to get all farm workers in Florida vaccinated by the end of May. She says she’s working with the White House to make that happen.

State leaders from across the state held a virtual roundtable discussion Wednesday.

A farmworker with based in Homestead identified as Christina shared her experience at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, .a colleague translated for her.

“They do not give us masks or gloves. There’s no facility where you can wash your hands with soap and water,” she said.

Lupe Gonzalo with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers talked about finally getting testing sites and hand washing stations in Immokalee thanks to grassroots efforts, but said they still need help from officials.

Natalia Naranjo translated for her.

“We would have never had to do that, if only those people in power in Tallahassee and Naples had seen us as human beings,” she said.

Fried was also on the call. She shared how devastating a COVID-19 outbreak could be in a farm worker community.

“It puts in jeopardy not only the health and wellness of our farmworkers, but our food supply chain,” she said.

The collection of farmworker organizations and allies on the call say in 2017 Florida ranked third in the country for agricultural exports, bringing in over $4 billion, thanks primarily to their hard work. That’s why Fried has turned to Tallahassee for help.

“We have asked on numerous occasions to the Governor to please allow the farmworkers to be considered essential for the vaccine, and to be a part of the first group of people to be vaccinated,” she said.

Butt Fried said her request fell on deaf ears. Fox 4 reached out to the Governor’s office to ask about his efforts to prioritize farm workers for vaccines, but haven’t gotten a response as of Wednesday evening.

Now Fried is turning to the Biden Administration to request more supplies, to get Florida farm workers fully vaccinated before they migrate for harvest season elsewhere.