“When we all get to a new normal”—I cannot tell you how many calls and meetings I have ended with that phrase in the last year. We have missed gathering, celebrating milestones and doing ordinary life together. Of course, some things haven’t gone virtual, like farm and ranch life. You can’t Zoom to feed livestock or plant crops. Through all the shutdowns and slowdowns, we were, and are, still farming. Farmers and ranchers adapted to keep our employees safe and our nation fed. Now, after a year of social distancing, masks, and gallons of hand sanitizer, we are finally seeing a light at the end of the long tunnel of this pandemic.
Thanks to increased safety efforts, advances in treatments and now three vaccines, we are turning a corner. Sadly, this pandemic has left few, if any, of us untouched. With so much loss over the last year, it’s not just about getting “back to normal” for many, but about finding a new normal after months of hardship and heartbreak. Yet even in our darkest moments, we have seen the resilience of our communities and how much stronger we truly are together.
We have also seen what our nation’s top scientists and researchers can accomplish together and with the resources they need. To have multiple vaccines ready in just a year’s time is unheard of. Imagine what more we could do in the fight against other diseases and to promote the wellbeing of our communities and climate if our nation focused so intently on advancing other science. In agriculture, we get a front-row seat at how research and development can advance science and change lives for the better. Ag research has brought us drought- and disease-resistant crops, helped cut back water and fertilizer use, and promoted animal welfare. As we get to the other side of the pandemic, I hope we will see greater public trust in the science behind agriculture and a much-needed shot in the arm of ag research funding to boost the tools and innovation needed to protect our home-grown, sustainable food supply.
One thing I can say with certainty is that I am thankful for the science that brought us the COVID-19 vaccine. I received my first dose recently. As many of you know, I came down with the virus last summer, and I don’t care to meet with it again. Farmers cannot afford to take a sick day, and we know the nation is counting on us to show up and keep the food supply secure. Across Farm Bureau, we are working with state and national leaders to ensure farmers and their employees are high on the priority list to increase their protection against this illness. Just last week, I sent a letter to President Biden calling on his administration to recognize the essential role agriculture plays with resources and vaccine accessibility, and two days later the White House announced additional funding focused, in part, on rural communities.
Farmers across the country are already promoting employee health and protection from the virus, just as they stepped up at the beginning of the pandemic to increase safety measures and provide resources on the farm. We are hearing stories of farmers bringing their employees along with them to vaccine centers and of work at the local level to set up special clinics for farm employees. This is just a snapshot of how safety takes top priority on the farm, pandemic or not. As the country and the world finds its way to a new normal, America’s farmers and ranchers and our employees will be on the job keeping our shelves stocked and pantries full.
I trust that we will be stronger on the other side of this crisis, and won’t it be priceless when we can gather again and give thanks for our friends, family and faith that carried us through.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.