On the third Thursday of every November, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recognizes National Rural Health Day by sharing stories about the community-minded and determined spirit that prevails in rural America, especially those committed to addressing the unique healthcare challenges faced by our neighbors in rural communities.
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NIFA-funded Project Brings COVID-19 Education, Vaccines to Rural Dairy Farms
Left image of father and son examining crops. Right image of a couple standing out in field. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This year, NIFA is highlighting the work of Dr. David

Douphrate, who recently joined the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University. Through a project funded by NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), Douphrate developed COVID-19 training resources for U.S. dairy industry producers and workers and partnered with the state Department of Public Health to hold on-farm mobile vaccine clinics.

Research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionally impacted U.S. dairy farm workers — especially Hispanic populations — and affected the dairy industry in several ways, from decreased milk prices and disrupted milk supply chains to worker shortages, increased production costs and lack of operating capital. The pandemic also caused the shutdown of dairy processors due to the closing of schools, restaurants, and hotels.

As a solution to the problem, Douphrate and his team of researchers developed and delivered training resources to mitigate infection and transmission of COVID-19 for both dairy producers and workers. The training resources were available in English, Spanish, and K’iche, an Indigenous language spoken by one million Maya in Guatemala. The team deployed 1,685 total trainings — both on site and virtually.

Through a partnership with the state, Douphrate’s team brought mobile

vaccine clinics to the farms they were working with, which were well received by workers. Some workers brought their families and neighboring farm workers lined up to get vaccinated as well!

Douphrate’s project, titled “COVID-19 in the U.S. Dairy Industry: Development, Delivery and Evaluation of Training Resources for Producers and Workers,” was funded through the AFRI COVID-19 Rapid Response to Novel Coronavirus Impacts Across Food and Agricultural Systems program area priority.

Globally, consumers can’t get enough of the quality and taste of American dairy products. Foreign exports of American dairy are twice the volume of the nation’s domestic dairy consumption. Last year, about 18% of U.S. dairy production was exported, and economists forecast that percentage to grow more than 25% in 2023.

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