COVID-19 has changed how much of the world operates over the past two weeks. But one thing that has not changed is the considerable workload that farmers face this time of year. Last week, with encouragement from many national grower associations, including the American Soybean Association, the Department of Homeland Security declared agriculture as a “critical industry workforce that should continue without disruption as the country responds to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.” This means that farmers can continue with the task at hand – making sure that equipment is ready for the fields, checking in on greenhouses and preparing fields for planting. These steps were taken in order to insure that farmers can continue to deliver the U.S. with the safest and most affordable food in the world. However, as other states began going on a mandatory lock down and counties within North Carolina (Wake, Durham, Mecklenburg, Orange) followed suit, the worry became that growers would be impeded from being able to move around as necessary to perform their critical and necessary job.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued guidance last week on critical industry workforce that should continue as the country addresses and responds to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. U.S. food and agriculture was included among 16 critical industries.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture (NCDA) has been working with the state’s commodity groups, including the N.C. Soybean Producers Association and N.C. Farm Bureau, to develop official documentation to both recognize the essential designation of agriculture and communicate that designation to relevant authorities. Below is a “Notice of Essential Food & Agriculture Form” from NCDA for farmers to fill out and keep in their vehicles as they perform their jobs.
- This form should be filled out by the farm owners and kept in farm employees’ vehicles at all times.
- This is NOT an official permit from NCDA. However, it is a form recognizing that ag has been deemed a critical part of the workforce throughout COVID-19.
- Local counties have not yet required permits for necessary employees but may do so. At this point the level of enforcement against non-essential activity at the county level is unclear. This is a preventative measure in case the entire state were to issue a shelter in place.
- NCDA will be providing continuous updates as they pertain to ag here: http://www.ncagr.gov/disaster/documents/COVID-19.htm
- NCDA has also sent this letter to the five largest law enforcement associations in North Carolina to notify them about essential employees in the agriculture industry of North Carolina. Please keep this as a part of your records as well: https://ncsoy.org/wp-content/uploads/Commissioner-COVID-Letter-to-LE-re-Ag-Group-Personnel-002SIGNED.pdf
We know that 2020 was already going to be a difficult year for many growers without the added stress of COVID-19. You all are in our thoughts while we take this on as a community. Stay safe and healthy!