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New York State

Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces New Targeted Effort to Vaccinate Workers at New York State Farms and Food Production Companies

April 13, 2021

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good afternoon. I brought the good weather I want you to know. It's a pleasure to be here today. It's such a beautiful part of the state. It's a pleasure to be in Orange County, pleasure to be in Walden. You know, when people talk about New York, very often they think about New York City, so I'm constantly saying, you know, think of the map of New York. You have New York City but then you have the whole rest of that state and it is a magnificent, magnificent state, and it's a pleasure to be here today.

Let me introduce some people who you're going to hear from in a moment, and we have some special guests. You're going to hear from Ryan Burk who is the head cider maker here at Angry Orchard. You'll then hear from Chris Kelder, District 10 director of the New York State farm bureau, and the farm bureau does a really magnificent service for not just the farm industry but for all of the State of New York. Let's give the Farm Bureau a round of applause. And then you're going to hear from Juanita Sarmiento, from the Catskill regional coordinator of the Rural & Migrant Ministry. We also have with us Commissioner Richard Ball, who is the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture & Markets, and he has transformed agriculture in this state and grown it. He knows it intimately, he is from the industry, but he is innovative and transformative, and agriculture in this state has changed dramatically thanks to him. We also have Jeff Crist who is the owner of the Crist Brothers Orchards. Nice to be with you, Jeff. Let's give Mr. Crist a round of applause. And Anne Kaufman Nolan, who is CEO of Sun River Health, which I'll be speaking about in one moment. And we have my daughter Cara Kennedy-Cuomo. Where did you go? Cara? She's back there. She's hiding.

Now you might say, oh, look, how nice. His daughter came with him on the trip. They must be very loving and close and we are loving and close but full disclosure, Cara came with me today to buy Angry Orchard cider. That's why she's here. It doesn't mean she doesn't love me but that is not the motivation for this purpose.

First, on what I was mentioning about Commissioner Ball and what angry Orchard is an example of - agriculture has been transformed in this state. It is a massive industry. It always has been. It's a $3.6 billion industry in the State of New York. 116,000 people work on farms and over the past few years we've taken a whole different look at agriculture, and how do we grow it, and how do we incentivize it, and how do we synergize it with other industries in the state, and we spent many, many days sitting down at a table, working together, finding different ways that we could revolutionize agriculture in New York, and in many ways we have. Where we are today, Angry Orchard, it's a national if not international leading company right here in Walden. We're all proud of it. Angry Orchard, I understand the name and I understand the derivation. I would not have come up with Angry Orchard as a name myself. I would have said something like "beautiful orchard," "entrepreneurial orchard," "New York orchard." "Excelsior orchard", that's what I would have come up with, state motto, ever upward orchard. But then we wouldn't be here today, because that would not have sold and it shows zero creativity. So I'm glad I had nothing to do with Angry Orchard. But, it has been a phenomenal, phenomenal success, and it's representative of cideries all across this state. If you had talked about cideries in New York State five, six years ago, they wouldn't have known what you were talking about. But, we saw the opportunity, we developed it, we changed the rules, we formed a partnership, and it is a magnificent growth industry now. The same with breweries all across the state, in urban areas also, what we're doing with breweries has really been transformation. Farm to table, the growth of wineries in New York State is a phenomenal story of success. And then that generated a whole tourism industry around it. And wine trails, and beer trails, and cidery trails, and people coming up to see and shop and taste. So the entire dynamic of agriculture has changed.

Greek yogurt, we're a major manufacturer in the Greek yogurt business. New York State makes more Greek yogurt than Greece. Why? That deserves a round of applause. Why do we make so much Greek yogurt? Chobani, so many companies here. Well, we didn't set out to make Greek yogurt. We produce milk, and what uses large quantities of milk? Greek yogurt. Make one cup of Greek yogurt, can be three, four, five cups of milk. So, when we knew we produced a lot of milk, Greek yogurt uses a lot of milk, we brought Greek yogurt companies here to manufacture in New York, to have a self-sustaining cycle. So it's working, it's working very well, and it's going to work even better.

One of the connections we've been focused on, and the commissioner, again, and the Department of Agriculture has done a great job here, you have Upstate New York that is a great producer. You have downstate New York, which is great consumer. How do you make that marriage? How do you make a marriage between that great consuming public in New York City and the producing enterprise in Upstate New York? And we've worked at that many, many different ways. The certified New York program, the New York Safe program, the New York organic program, saying to the consumers in New York, if you want to buy a food product, buy a food product you know is safe. And if it is made in New York, if it's inspected in New York, if it's regulated in New York, then you should have confidence that that product is safe to consume for you and your family. And that has worked very, very well. And the number of cooperatives now that cooperate bringing product down to New York City has really been a success story in and of itself.

Covid hits last year and what was an economic development venture turns into a public health venture. Turns into a necessity. You had families who were out of work. Families who literally couldn't afford to buy food. Meanwhile, we had farms and producers upstate New York who were struggling and who had supply chain problems, and their normal purchasers for their product were ending their purchasing. So, you had farms upstate with surplus product. You had consumers downstate and in urban areas all across and rural areas all across the state who literally didn't have enough to eat. How do you put those two things together? We developed a program called Nourish New York which is common sense. Let's purchase the product that we are making and lets supply it to food banks that are feeding hungry and starving people across the state of New York. That's Nourish New York.

We started this right when Covid was beginning. When Covid first assaulted there was so many ancillary problems that developed that nobody even imagined. Not just with the healthcare system, but a problem like this. People are out of work they can't buy food, they go hungry. So, we started Nourish New York. We've spent $35 million so far, purchasing product from New York producers to feed hungry people. Today I'm here to announce that it has worked so well that we're going to allocate an additional $50 million to Nourish New York. Let's support our agriculture industry and let's feed hungry people. So far, 21 million pounds of food have been delivered. Over one million families have participated in the Nourish New York program. 30 percent was dairy, 30 percent was produce, 30 percent was meat and seafood. Five thousand distributors of food across the state. Four thousand farms have participated, so far. With this additional $50 million, we expect that to increase, so we're very excited about that. At the same time, because nothing is simple nowadays, we are still in the midst of COVID. And no, it's not as bad as it was, but neither have we beaten the COVID monster. And it's no time to get cocky about COVID. "Well, we have a vaccine, it's over." It's not over. It's not over. We have to watch it every day, and it's still a battle, and it's still a race. It's number of vaccines versus rate of infection, and you see parts of this country where the infection rate is taking off again, and the hospitalization rate is taking off again.

We have to get the vaccines in arms and that's why part of this is Sun River Health, where we're going to start a new program. We understand agricultural workers have demanding schedules. We understand we happen to be in rural parts of the state. It's hard to get to a vaccination site. We will bring the vaccination site to you and we're going to start mobile vaccination sites and Sun River - you see the vehicle behind me - Sun River Health will operate mobile vaccination sites where they will come to Angry Orchard. They will come to farms so they can vaccinate workers and the managers onsite because we need to get vaccinated, please.

Let's give Sun River a round of applause.

Let me give you a quick update about where we are on the numbers today on COVID, because as I said, it's something that you have to watch every day. And we do. We do more testing than any other state in the United States. Why? Because you want to find those positive cases, because when you find a COVID positive case, you can quarantine that person, you can make sure that person isn't spreading COVID, and you can make sure that person is getting the treatment that they need.

Today, the positivity is 3.9 percent. We have 58 New Yorkers who passed away from COVID yesterday. So, when you think about, "Is it over? I have COVID fatigue. I'm ready to move on," 58 New Yorkers passed away yesterday, and they are in our thoughts and prayers. It's a sober reminder that this is not over.

Four thousand people were hospitalized yesterday with COVID. 869 in ICU. 564 were intubated. What's also interesting is COVID and the spread of COVID is a function of behavior, of human behavior and of community behavior. Even within our state, you see very different COVID rates. Why? One state. Everybody receiving the same message. Everybody receiving the same information, but you still see different rates of infection because it is up to us at the end of the day. It is a matter of personal responsibility. You tell me how you act, I'll tell you your likelihood of getting COVID. You tell me how disciplined you are and how seriously the community takes COVID and I'll tell you what's going to happen with the rate of infection.

So you have Western New York, highest infection rate in the state, Western New York. 4.8 percent. What's the lowest infection rate in the state? Southern Tier. 0.7. Lowest infection rate, 0.7. Highest, 4.8. Look at that variance. It's up to how our community behaves. Second-highest, Long Island, 3.8. Mid-Hudson, 3.7. New York City, 3.4. Finger Lakes, 3.1. Capital Region, 2.3. Mohawk Valley, 1.7. Central New York, 1.7. And as I mentioned, Southern Tier, 0.75. Statewide, that's at 3.16. So we are making progress on the number.

We went, and in this state from the highest infection rate on the globe, highest infection rate on the globe. Memories are short. One year ago today, we had the worst problem on the globe and we went from the highest infection rate to one of the lowest infection rates on the globe. That's because New Yorkers came together and New Yorkers listened and New Yorkers cared about each other. I call it "New York Tough". They say we're tough to be New Yorkers. Yeah, but it's not just tough. It's smart, it's caring, it's united, it's disciplined, and that's how we brought the COVID infection rate down and that's how we're going to continue to bring the COVID infection rate down.

One other point, they announced today that there was an issue on the J&J vaccines. There are three types of vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson is a vaccine I took. It has significant benefits because it's one shot. The other vaccinations are two shots, so somebody such as myself, a little lazy, if I can get away with one shot, I'll take the one shot rather than go for two shots.

They have put a pause federally on Johnson & Johnson because six people had an adverse reaction to Johnson & Johnson. I spoke to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky who is head of the CDC this morning about the situation. We have stopped using Johnson & Johnson in this state and we're going to use Pfizer and Moderna in the meantime.

The situation with Johnson & Johnson is they had six people in the country out of 6.8 million who received the vaccine, so it's roughly one person per million. All six happened to be women. They had blood clots which are serious and they had serious headaches.

The reason they paused the Johnson & Johnson is they want to make sure all health care providers know if a person comes in with these symptoms the normal medication is heparin that they give for a blood clot. That does not work in this situation, so they want to get the word out to all health care providers, if a person comes in, they said they had a vaccine, they have a serious headache, they diagnose a blood clot, you don't use the normal medication, and they have a special protocol for this situation.

But context, it's six people out of 6.8 million - happens to be six women who between days 6 and 13 developed headaches and the federal government I think wisely so said, let's put a pause, let's advise health care workers to be aware of this, and in the meantime we'll use Pfizer and we'll use Moderna, so we're going to be doing the same thing here in New York and then when they finish doing their work on the Johnson & Johnson we'll resume using Johnson & Johnson, but we do have enough Pfizer and we do have enough Moderna vaccination to keep our schedule and to keep those numbers happening.

And again, I'll end where I started. It is a race with COVID. It is a race. It is still here. There are now what they call variants of interest, all these new terms. Somebody should start a dictionary of COVID terms, right? Variants of interest. Variants. The virus continues to mutate and some variants are harder to treat. Some variants transmit more easily. So we want to get everyone vaccinated. We need to reach herd immunity. It's a fascinating situation where until everybody is safe really nobody is safe. That's what it comes down to.

It's a real life situation of community where people come together to take care of each other, and I get vaccinated not just for myself, I get vaccinated so I don't infect you or my mother or someone who I happen to run into. We do it for each other. Same reason why we wear a mask. I wear a mask to protect you. You wear a mask to protect me, and that is part of being a New Yorker. We're all in this together. We're all in this state together. We're all in this place together. We're all in this life together and the only way to succeed is to succeed together.

Thank you for having me here today. I have to make sure Cara comes home with cider, and with that, and congratulations again. Let's hear from Mr. Ryan Burk who is the head cider maker, then Chris Kelder from the Farm Bureau, then Jaunita Sarmiento. Thank you very much.

Ryan Burk: Thanks, Governor. I don't know how I'm supposed to follow that up but I will certainly try. As the Governor said, I'm Ryan Burk, I'm the head cider maker here at Angry Orchard. I am a proud New Yorker. I grew up in Western New York in Williamson, New York, certainly one of the great apple growing regions of the state and I'm really happy to call Dutchess and Orange County home, so thanks everyone for joining us here today at Angry Orchard. This is our cider house right behind us and our beautiful 60-acre orchard that has been manned by the Crist family over the last five years since we took it over but for generations before that so we're really proud to work in partnership with the Chris family, to grow apples here on our farm and contribute to the apple economy of New York State. We're also super grateful to the state and to our partners Sun River Health, for making the COVID vaccine accessible to farmworkers, and those of us working in agriculture. So that includes people who are planting trees, picking apples, making cider and also selling it to drinkers. So, making sure that whole supply chain is safe and healthy is key to success of the New York State economy. As everyone probably knows, we are the second largest apple-growing state in our country. We're certainly the finest. And when it comes to cidermaking, as it turns out, it should be no surprise really that we have the most cidermakers of any state in the country. So those apples and how they are grown and how they get to us, how they are turned into cider, and how they are sold and drunk is super important to all of us. So we're really excited to be a part of offering the COVID vaccine to those of us in the agriculture space in a really easy, quick way, here at Angry Orchard starting next Wednesday, in partnership with Sun River Health and New York State, this supply chain and the people in it are vital to us. So we're happy to be a part of it. Thanks to New York State, and I'll pass it over to Chris Kelder.

Chris Kelder: Thank you, Ryan. Thank you, Governor, for the opportunity to join you here today and to Ryan for hosting us. This is a very important day. My family and I run a farm on the other side of the mountain in Kerhonkson, and I am the Hudson Valley Representative on the New York Farm Bureau State Board of Directors. Protecting our employees, keeping the food system going and making sure all New Yorkers have food to eat during this challenging time have been priorities of the New York Farm Bureau and the farming community since day one of the pandemic. We must do all that we can for the health and safety of our employees and I am happy to be here today to support this effort and get more farm workers vaccinated. We are grateful to the Governor and his team for bringing the vaccines to the farm today to make it as easy as possible. I know there are farms across the state eager to host similar clinics. I would also like to thank Sun River and the critical work you are doing and the outreach to the farm worker community is saving lives. We are fortunate to have migrant health clinics in New York State. Farm Bureau has worked closely with the State to highlight the needs of farmers, food workers all along the food supply chain. We are looking forward to continuing the partnership with the governor and his administration to effectively reach as many people as we can with the COVID vaccine.

I receive the vaccine and encourage my employees and all in the agriculture community to do the same to beat back this virus. Thank you again, governor for highlighting the needs today and working to support our essential workers. Next is Juanita Sarmiento, the Catskills Regional Coordinator of Rural and Migrant Ministry.

Juanita Sarmiento: Thank you, Chris. Thank you. My name is Juanita. I'm here on behalf of our Executive Director Richard Witt of the Rural and Migrant Ministry. I'd like to think the governor for being here today and thank you to the many allied organizations who fought hard for prioritizing farm worker testing and vaccination throughout New York State. I am so honored to be here today representing Rural and Migrant Ministry. For 40 years we have worked to uphold the needs of rural, migrant and farm-working communities statewide. When we speak of essential workers, there are none more essential than farmworkers. They put food on our tables and have risked so much in working through the pandemic to keep us all fed.

Many farmworkers live in isolation and fear, a feeling which is only compounded by the realities of being a person of color or undocumented. The COVID pandemic has been painful for everyone but it has disproportionately affected farm-working communities and communities of color, especially rural communities of color. This virus exposed inequities within New York State and farming/working communities long before COVID. As we move forward allocating resources to community groups will happen lessen the disparities in vaccination and meeting rural and migrant communities where they are and bringing the vaccine directly to their place of work.

Once more, we'd like to thank the coalition of partners: The Workers Center of Central New York, Cornell Farmworker Program, UFCW's Local 1 and Local 388, Worker Justice Center of New York, the RWDSU Local 388, and New York State and everyone in the Governor's Office who worked together to say that justice for farmworkers is essential and not optional. Thank you.

Governor Cuomo: Okay. It's a good day all around. It's a good day for the agriculture industry. It's a good day for the workers who give so much of themselves, for whom it has been harder to get the vaccines. When Juanita says this COVID virus has affected people differently, she's exactly right. This COVID virus has discriminated. Poor people, people of color, the Black community, the Hispanic community, the undocumented community, have all paid a higher price for COVID. Not just in more testing positive, but actually in more death. So, equitable distribution is a big part of what we're doing.

It's a beautiful day. Let's give another round of applause for Richard Ball, Commissioner of the Agriculture Department, Ryan Berg, Chris Kelder, Juanita Sarmiento.

Jeff and Chris, congratulations to you. Manolo thank you and thank Sun River for your great service.

Thank you, all. Enjoy.

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