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.
The Latest from Governor Cuomo’s Daily Briefing on COVID-19
- NYS officials are working with five scientific models to determine the apex of the illness, and almost no two are the same. The models show the apex at anywhere between 7-21 days.
- State currently has up to 75,000 hospital beds, all models say more are needed.
- On ventilators, models showing need of 20-40,000 more in addition to what's already on hand.
- No patients have been sent upstate to date.
- Governor will be asking upstate health care staff to mobilize and head downstate.
- In terms of cost to fight pandemic, the Governor said, " We will do what we have to do to save lives, and we'll figure out the bill afterwards."
- NYS ordered 17,000 ventilators at $25,000 each from China, so did California, Illinois, Federal Government, and Italy that has placed a strain on production and distribution.
- State has firm expectation of only 2,500 ventilators arriving in the next two weeks.
- Reiterates frustration with interstate competition, as well as additional competition from the Federal Government. "Not everyone should have to buy everything."
- FEMA is outbidding the states in acquiring ventilators. Governor states that Federal distribution will be important.
- Governor said he would send State Police to backfill the need if NYPD staffing becomes an issue.
- Governor’s brother, Chris Cuomo, has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is at home.
- According to the Governor, some estimates show that we're overwhelming the hospital systems by up to two times.
- Support staff in hospitals (the "front line") need relief and are emotionally and physically exhausted.
- Yesterday's meeting with health care leaders to sort out 78,000 medical volunteers by region to link them with a hospital
- A portal will be launched today to aid in connecting the hospitals with the volunteers. Prioritizing in-state workers, downstate region as first priority, then upstate, and then out-of-state volunteers. People could be in place as early as Thursday.
- Governor stating that New York will pay expertise that travels to NY to help.
- Supplies, staff and space need to be shared between hospitals and systems.
- Still working on new testing, as well as still testing the new medications.
Governor Cuomo had extended the Pause Act to April 15, which mandates non-essential workers to work from home and a six-foot social distancing space be observed in public places. Click here for more information.
For the latest number of infection cases, including a breakdown by county, click here.
State Withdraws Guidance for Horticulture Operations
New York State has withdrawn its March 24, 2020 guidance for horticultural operations. As such, these businesses continue to be subject to the workforce reductions outlined in the Governor’s Executive Order 202.6. The Department of Agriculture and Markets is continuing conversations with Empire State Development, as a result of strong advocacy from the NY Farm Bureau and other organizations, to provide clarity for the horticultural operations.
USDA Issues Emergency Provisions for Milk Dumping and Supply Flexibility to Meet Increased Retail Demand
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is prepared take specific actions within the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) to facilitate the disposal of milk or provide flexibility to meet increased retail demand due to COVID-19. These actions are authorized for the time period of March-May, as needed. Actions include:
- USDA will provide flexibility for the dumping of milk and limit the financial impact to producers. Milk historically associated with a FMMO will be allowed to be dumped at the farm and still priced and pooled on the FMMO. The pooling handler will need to notify the FMMO of any dumped milk.
- Pooling provisions, shipping and/or diversion limits, of individual orders may be adjusted to accommodate changes in supply/demand due to COVID-19 responses.
- Fully regulated plants having difficulty meeting the increased demand at grocery stores will be allowed to purchase milk from other sources such as partially regulated distributing plants, provided the additional milk is pooled and priced on a FMMO.
- If a Producer-Handler loses their markets due to COVID-19, the FMMO will allow these entities to become fully regulated and then revert to their Producer-Handler status once the market returns to normal.
- If a Producer-Handler has the capacity to process additional fluid milk for consumers, the FMMOs will lift the limit on the amount of outside milk the Producer-Handler can purchase if the milk is pooled and priced on a FMMO. The Producer-Handler must still remain under the three-million-pound production threshold in order to keep its Producer-Handler status.
All requests should be made to the local Milk Marketing Administrator.
Should the need arise, please review this alert from Pro-Dairy to ensure that surplus milk is managed appropriately.
JBS in Pennsylvania Temporarily Reduces Production Due to COVID-19 Cases
On March 30, the first packing plant in the U.S.will temporarily reduce its production after two staff test positive for COVID-19. The plant says that it will reassess the situation in two weeks but at this time will only operate fabrication and ground beef operations at this time. A reminder that COVID-19 is non transmissible in food, so products remain safe. Michael J. Baker, PhD, Beef Cattle Specialist at Cornell University, has issued this paper describing the impacts of processing plant closures.
SBA Loan Guidance and Clarification
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loans and other programs to provide assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Questions have arisen regarding agriculture and farm eligibility for SBA loans.
The SBA recently published an application guide for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program, which can be found here. Unfortunately, the application guide specifically states that agricultural enterprises (e.g. farms) are not eligible entities, with the exception of aquaculture enterprises, agricultural cooperatives, and nurseries. As per the SBA: Agricultural Enterprises: If the primary activity of the business is agricultural, as defined in § 18(b)(1) of the Small Business Act, neither the business nor its affiliates are eligible for EIDL assistance even though the non-agricultural portion of an agricultural enterprise may be eligible for business disaster assistance. If more than 50% of an applicant’s cost of goods sold (COGS) is derived from the purchase ! of goods from the principals’ and/or affiliates’ agricultural production, the applicant is considered an adjunct activity of an agricultural enterprise (e.g. farming operation) and not eligible for EIDL assistance.
However, the CARES Act, which was passed last Friday, March 27, was intended to allow farmers to be eligible for EIDL and clarification is currently being sought in the bill language to ensure that farm enterprises are eligible for SBA loans. NYFB hopes to have official guidance and clarity to members in the coming days. In the meantime, businesses are encouraged to keep records to assist with applying for any loans or other assistance programs.
Payroll Protection Program in the Federal CARES Act
The final rules on the Payroll Protection Program are expected to be released today or tomorrow. The CARES Act establishes a new guaranteed loan program at SBA for small businesses to cover payroll during the immediate crisis. Agricultural businesses that meet the size standards are eligible for the program. The program is a guaranteed loan program through SBA, and businesses will work with their lender (bank/Farm Credit/etc) to access this program. The Payroll Protection Program would: support $349 billion in 100 percent guaranteed, low interest, no fee loans of up to $10 million with repayment deferred for at least six months; forgive up to 100% of the loan if the borrower has retained the same number of employees as when they received the loan.
Who is eligible?: small- and medium-sized businesses up to 500 employees, nonprofits [501(c)(3)], independent contractors and the self-employed.
How are loans made?: The SBA’s network of 7(a) lenders will be used to process these loans. There is also authority to fast track additional lenders to process and disburse these loans to reach as many small businesses as quickly as possible.
Are these grants?: Yes and No. The amount of the loan forgiven at the end of the year will be determined by how many employees were retained on the company’s payroll, up to 100 percent for full retention. There are safeguards built in to protect against employers gaming the program, as well as recognizing some employers will be forced to do temporary furloughs but bring their employees back on.
What is covered?: The bill allows firms to get a loan to cover up to 2.5 months of payroll and any new EIDL loan balances incurred because of Coronavirus but cannot exceed $10 million. How long does the program last: The program is open until June 30, 2020, as it is intended for immediate payroll relief to ensure businesses do not do mass layoffs during this crisis.
An updated copy of NYFB’s factsheet on the CARES Act can be found here. It will be updated as more information becomes available.
COVID-19 Infographics for Equine Farms
There are two COVID-19 infographics from Extension Horses now available for equine farms: Equine FAQs and Essential and Nonessential Equine Care. Also, there is still the guidance document from NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Cornell Cooperative Extension fact sheet for equine operations.
NYS Ag & Markets Resource Guide for COVID-19
In an effort to keep the agricultural industry informed on the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation and New York State’s response, the Department is providing this document to help connect you with industry-relevant resources. Below, you will find information on small businesses, food safety, companion animals, mental health, and more. This document will be updated frequently as new information arises. Additionally, please continue to check agriculture.ny.gov/coronavirus regularly for the latest resources.
Guidance on DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has released a guidance document to provide clarity to employers and employees on conducting DOT drug and alcohol testing during COVID-19. Also, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a guidance document with recommended actions for FMCSA-regulated employers unable to conduct alcohol and drug testing due to COVID-19. The FMCSA guidance is in effect until May 30, 2020. Employers and employees still need to be utilizing the FMCSA CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse database.
NYSDOH Issues Protocols for Employers on Essential Personnel Return to Work Following COVID-19 Exposure or Infection
New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) has released guidance on protocols for essential personnel returning to work following COVID-19 exposure or infection. Public and private sector organizations that provide essential services or functions where personnel are needed to perform critical functions, including infrastructure, public safety, and other essential operations, may allow personnel who were exposed to or are recovering from COVID-19 to work in the workplace setting, if needed to maintain essential operations.
Essential personnel who have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 can be permitted to work in the required workplace setting if certain conditions are met. Some of those conditions are when working from home is not feasible, when personnel are asymptomatic, employees undergo a prescribed protocol of temperature taking, and personnel required to interact with individuals within 6 feet should wear a facemask1 while working for 14 days following the last exposure.
These and other protocols for essential personnel to return to work following COVID-19 exposure or infection are available at this link.
Current guidance on who are Essential Personnel can be found at this link.
NYSDOH Issues Advisory on Discontinuing Home Isolation for Symptomatic and Asymptomatic Individuals
New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) has released guidance to Healthcare Providers, Healthcare Facilities, Clinical Laboratories, and Local Health Departments regarding individuals who were confirmed as having COVID-19 discontinuing home isolation.
Symptomatic individuals who were confirmed as having COVID-19 may discontinue home isolation once they meet the following conditions:
- At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications; AND
- Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); AND
- At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
Asymptomatic individuals who were confirmed as having COVID-19 may discontinue home isolation under the following conditions:
- At least 7 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test; AND
- The individual has had no subsequent illness.
More information is available here.
Farm Credit East to Host Webinar on Recently Passed Federal Legislation Regarding FFCRA
Join Farm Credit East on Thursday, April 2 at noon for a free, educational webinar regarding new payroll and tax provisions outlined in the newly passed Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Senior Tax Consultant, Dario Arezzo, will review some of the provisions outlined in FFCRA, including emergency leave and payroll tax credits. In addition, key tax provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act – including filing deadline changes, rebates, retirement accounts and more – will be covered. Click here to register.
Institute for Food Safety Virtual Office Hours
The Institute for Food Safety will host another Virtual Office Hours this Thursday, April 2 from noon to 1 p.m. Speak directly to Cornell University Food Safety Experts in dairy, fresh produce, and processed foods and beverages, who will answer your questions on COVID-19 and its impact on the food industry. Dr. Kalmia Kniel, a virologist from the University of Delaware, and a representative from Ecolab, Inc. will join our subject matter experts from Cornell to provide additional expertise on viruses as well as cleaning and sanitizing. Click here for more info.
Some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) from previous sessions are posted on the IFS website for your reference.
COVID-19 and Your Produce Farm Webinar
Cornell CALS Ag. Workforce Development Specialist, Dr. Richard Stup, and Elizabeth Bihn, PhD, Director of Produce Safety Alliance at Cornell, will host an April 3 webinar and provide steps that produce farm managers and individuals working with fruit and vegetable farms should consider to protect their workforce, their business, and their markets.
- Link to join COVID-19 and Your Produce Farm webinar
- Click here for additional prevention and control tips for produce farms.
NY FarmNet is open
Please keep these numbers and websites available to call or share should you, a family member or friends need someone to speak with in these uncertain times.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 (TALK), www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Crisis Text Line
Text “GOT 5” to 741-741, www.crisistextline.org
Social Media Requests
New York Farm Bureau is looking to share more positive stories on social media about what is happening on your farm. Show us preparations and fieldwork for spring planting. We’d love to see how the greenhouses are looking. What are you doing to promote safe and healthy working conditions for your employees? Share a story with consumers as you talk to the camera. Please send videos and pictures to Steve Ammerman, NYFB’s public affairs manager at email@example.com and help us spread the message that New York agriculture is #StillFarming.
If you have concerns about how COVID-19 will affect your agricultural operation, please give New York Farm Bureau a call at 518-436-8495. 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.