New York Farm Bureau will be sending daily alerts at this time to keep you up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 news that may affect you, your farm family and employees. We know things are constantly changing, but we will do our best to keep you informed, offer guidance and share ways you may be able to help. We will do this for as long as it is necessary. NYFB is a community, and we are all in this together.
Farms, Agribusinesses Exempted From Closure
in Executive Order Issued Wednesday
Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order Wednesday saying he will exempt essential service industries, including shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions, and other businesses essential to the supply chain. Additionally, the order directs non-essential businesses to implement work-from-home policies effective Friday, March 20. Businesses that rely on in-office personnel must decrease their in-office workforce by 50 percent.
H-2A Update Amid Visa Processing Suspension
As of today, March 18, 2020, the Mexican embassy and consulates will suspend immigrant and non-immigrant visa services, including those for H-2A and H-2B workers. These locations will only be providing essential services to US citizens and emergency visa issues. The USDA is currently working with the State Department and the White House concerning this impact on H-2A applications. The State Department will prioritize returning H-2A and H-2B workers who are eligible for an interview waiver. This will allow them to conduct business via a call instead of an in-person interview. However, there are restrictions on this waiver, as the returning worker must have had an H-2A visa within the last year, be applying for the same type of visa, and did not require an interview waiver previously.
Visa processing operations have also been impacted in South Africa and Jamaica. South Africa intends to process H-2A applications through emergency procedures to ensure they are processed in a timely manner. Jamaica is expected to utilize the same interview waiver authority.
For farmers/labor contractors dealing with H-2A issues, USDA has established an email for inquires: firstname.lastname@example.org. Producers are also encouraged to monitor embassy websites for updates or check farmers.gov/manage/h2a.
NYFB sent a letter to the Administration stressing the importance of the continued flow of agricultural workers that can be found here. NYFB also encourages members to reach out to their Congressional representatives to make them aware of the issue and encourage Congress to work with the Administration to address critical labor needs. Click here to send a letter.
NYFB Issues Press Statement Over Labor Concerns
The NYFB Press Release to statewide media outlets expressed the commitment of New York farmers to respond in the pandemic, but also reiterated the action that is requested from the Governor and President during this time to ensure our farms and agribusinesses remain open with access to guest workers. It read in part, “The agricultural community is strong. We understand adversity and come together in trying times. Our farms and agribusinesses are working hard to follow safety protocols and ensuring food production continues for the people of New York State and the country.” Click here to read the full statement.
Paid Sick Leave Legislation Expected to Pass
Today, the New York legislature is expected to pass legislation regarding paid sick leave and the Governor is expected to sign this bill into law. The first part of this legislation will provide paid leave and other benefits to employees who are impacted by mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. The second part of this legislation will create new and permanent regulation requiring employers to provide sick leave to their employees. Click here to view NYFB’s fact sheet on this legislation.
COVID-19 and Your Dairy, Webinar on Friday
Richard Stup, PhD, Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development and Rob Lynch, DVM, Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY will be hosting a webinar Friday, March 20 from 10-11 a.m. for Dairy Farmers. Topics include: why prevention of the coronavirus/COVID-19 is important, steps that employers should take to protect employees, animal health considerations, what to do if service providers are not available, disaster contingency plans, cross-training of employees who can fill other roles, business resources for employers, and pending federal and state legislation related to coronavirus and employees. The link to join can be found here.
U.S.-Canada to Close Border to Non-Essential Traffic
The U.S. and Canada have mutually decided to close the border between the countries to all non-essential traffic to help prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus. It does not appear at this time that trade and essential travel between the two countries will be impacted. Further information will be provided when more information is known.
Communicating Basic Hygiene to Farm Employees
NYCAMH has issued guidance for employers to speak about COVID-19 with their employees, including Spanish language instruction for migrant employees. Hand washing is a first defense against protecting oneself and others from Coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Here are a few tips when communicating hand hygiene basics to farm employees:
1. Keep It Simple. More than half of U.S. adults have limited literacy skills, and 9 out of 10 have trouble understanding complex health information.
2. SHOW. When it comes to hand washing, show how it’s done. We recommend the following CDC videos:
In English: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/videos.html
If your workers have the ability to watch on their phones, text them the link. They can then re-watch at home and share with friends and family.
Illustrated posters on personal hygiene are available in English and Spanish on the NYCAMH website: https://www.nycamh.org/resources/posters.php
3. REPEAT. Continue to remind workers to wash their hands. Place simple signs or posters in key locations, such as in bathrooms, entryways, exits, where they cook, and where they clock in or out.
USDA Ensures Food Safety During COVID-19 Outbreak
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is ensuring the safety and timely delivery of the U.S. food supply while protecting the health of USDA employees during this COVID-19 National Emergency. USDA has sent a letter to stakeholders reassuring them that APHIS, AMS, and FSIS are rising to meet the challenges associated with COVID-19.
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS):
- Meat, poultry, and processed egg inspection services continue as normal.
- Planning for absenteeism is a part of normal FSIS operations and as such, FSIS is closely monitoring and tracking employee absenteeism to plan for and minimize impacts to operations.
- FSIS is also working to prioritize inspection at establishments based on local conditions and resources available.
Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
- APHIS and AMS continue to provide critical inspections and grading services.
- APHIS and AMS are ensuring the health and safety of USDA employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply moving from farms to forks.
- APHIS and AMS are prepared to remedy any possible disruptions in their services.
- AMS will continue to report commodity prices through its market news service.
For more information from the USDA, you may visit www.usda.gov/coronavirus.
ADANE Virtual Farm Tours to Help Kids Pass the Time
Active on Social Media? American Dairy Association Northeast says to consider these tips during this challenging time For farmers - there's now a larger audience of families looking for interesting, educational material to pass the time over the next several weeks. Connect with these folks by offering a glimpse of your everyday life, whether through short videos, show-and-tell of various parts of the farm, caption contests, or simply asking what they'd like to know more about. Consider inviting families into your kitchen to showcase your favorite dairy recipes (kid-friendly recipes are always a hit). Remind them a healthy diet - including the nine essential nutrients found in milk and dairy products - is essential to a healthy immune system.
The American Dairy Association Northeast recommend its virtual farm tours and online dairy lesson plans to help keep them engaged and actively learning. Since posting a reminder about the virtual farm tours on our social media channels on Monday, more than 7,000 people have already tuned into the tours.
If you have concerns about how COVID-19 will affect your agricultural operation, please give us a call. We can only help those who ask. Who knows, maybe your question will cause us to get ahead of a problem instead of reacting to it after it has become a problem.
• Click here for the latest information from New York State on COVID-19.
• The CDC has created a website for the latest news on the virus. Click here to access it.