COVID-19
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Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems

Covid-19 Resources for Agriculture

by Sheryl Karas MA, CRARS staff

man putting on a bandana for a face mask

Obviously, safety is on everyone’s mind because of the Covid-19 coronavirus. However, because food and agriculture are considered to be essential services(opens in new window), these industries have a special responsibility to continue operations despite shelter-in place orders and other restrictions throughout the nation. That leads to specific challenges for the industry and concerns for the public that need to be addressed.

Of course, the industry is no stranger to issues of biosecurity(opens in new window). Regulations and guidelines for various segments of the food and agriculture infrastructure have been in place for years, if not decades. However, most of these regulations were created to address threats to the safety of the food itself and, luckily, according to the USDA(opens in new window), there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food. Unlike gastrointestinal viruses that often make people ill through contaminated food, COVID-19 causes respiratory illness. The virus is transmitted mostly through droplets that enter the respiratory system and, possibly, via touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one’s face. Using normal food safety measures such as cleaning, refrigerating, and cooking food is considered to be sufficient for consumer protection.

The real concern is how to keep farm workers and other employees safe in order to keep these essential services going. A variety of resources are being developed to assist the agricultural community in this endeavor.

California Farm Bureau Federation

This comprehensive industry coronavirus resource webpage(opens in new window) provides links to global, national and state updates and recommendations, guidance for health and safety measures to take for agricultural workers, how to prepare workplaces for combating Covid-19, protective gear, and specific recommendations for food production/processing facilities and food retail establishments. The page also provides guidance on payroll and other financial issues that may be of use.

AgSafe Food & Farms

Since 1991 it has been the mission of AgSafe to provide practical health and safety education to the agricultural community. Their Covid-19 Resources page(opens in new window) has links to Covid-19 business essentials for employers, webinars and videos, employer resources for health, safety, agricultural operations and government benefits, health service resources for employees, and frequently asked questions. 

Cal/OSHA

Cal/OSHA has updated its guidance outlining workplace practices to protect employees(opens in new window). The agency recommends and provides information for agricultural employers to update their Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPPs), saying that most California workplaces should consider the disease “a workplace hazard.”

USDA

The USDA Coronavirus page(opens in new window) has information for both consumers and industry about the agency’s specific responses to the pandemic as well as what farmers need to know about how USDA services, loans and other functions are affected at this time.

Farm Employers Labor Service 

The Farm Employers Labor Service, a division of California Farm Bureau has a new COVID-19 News & Resources for Farm Employers page(opens in new window) with links to important information of particular interest to farm employers. 

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) 

This act requires private employers with fewer than 500 employees to post a notice summarizing the benefits available to employees under the FFCRA. A model notice, created by the U.S. Department of Labor which may be downloaded here(opens in new window). There are also FAQs about the posting requirements(opens in new window) available. 

Small Business Administration (SBA) - Paycheck Protection Program

The CARES Act includes $350 billion that will assist businesses in continuing to pay its employees. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides forgivable loans to small businesses, with fewer than 500 employees, up to $10 million when used to defer costs of keeping employees on the payroll, adding employees and other expenses. Find more information at the SBA(opens in new window)

Be sure to check back with these resources as new information is added everyday.