A group of agricultural organizations from across the U.S. are seeking federal support to enhance worker protection in regard to COVID-19. More than 160 industry groups sent a letter detailing the challenges related to ensuring COVID-19 safety. The letter addressed to Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the White House Coronavirus Task Force, emphasizes areas that could use improvement and increased support.
“Across the agriculture sector, employers have instituted best practices including social distancing, enhanced hygiene and sanitation procedures, employee training, and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE),” the letter states. “With the broad strain on PPE availability, testing, and other resources, however, we ask for your help as we continue to promote the health and safety of our farm employees and rural communities.”
The coalition notes that support from the task force to ensure COVID-19 testing resources are available and timely for the agricultural industry. Greater flexibility in the use of alternative housing structures would also help enhance worker safety. The coalition is encouraging increasing the availability of Commodity Credit Corporation support to offset some of the expenses that farming operations are incurring in responding to coronavirus safety efforts. The industry groups also note the need to prioritize the food and fiber supply chain for PPE dispersal and eventual vaccine distribution.
The letter was signed by 167 groups and organizations from across the country. The California Farm Bureau Federation was joined by dozens of county Farm Bureaus and California-based commodity groups and cooperatives. The signatories note that coronavirus worker protection could be more effective with increased cooperative outreach to rural communities to reduce exposure risks outside of the workplace.
“Despite the implementation of best practices in fields and processing facilities, the agricultural workforce remains at heightened risk of infection. We ask for your attention to this matter to help us continue to mitigate risk whenever and however possible for those dedicated to stocking America’s pantry,” the letter concludes.