Dairy is Critical Infrastructure
On March 19, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) updated their guidance clarifying what sectors are deemed “critical infrastructure”. Functioning critical infrastructure is imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency for both public health and safety as well as community well-being. The dairy supply chain, from farm to fork, has been identified as essential critical infrastructure and as such, employees have a special responsibility in these times to continue operations. The full list of industries and DHS guidance can be accessed here.
The State of Georgia has a new COVID-19 hotline: 1-844-442-2681. Georgians with questions or concerns about COVID-19 (coronavirus) may call this hotline.
Essential Food and Agricultural Employee Mobilization Permit Template (available in Spanish for reference only)
Novel Coronavirus Prevention & Control for Farms, Cornell University Agricultural Workforce Development
COVID-19: 5 Things Your Farm Should Do Now, Farm Journal
Five Crisis Planning Tips to Combat COVID-19, Dairy Herd Management
Resources Available to Address COVID-19, Dairy Herd Management
Be Prepared: What Should Employers Do About the Coronavirus?, National Law Review
Stress & Wellness Resources, Center for Dairy Excellence
Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses.
Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards.
For a top-line overview of the program CLICK HERE
If you’re a lender, more information can be found HERE
If you’re a borrower, more information can be found HERE
The application for borrowers can be found HERE
Work closely with your lenders and ask them for additional information before making a final decision to obtain loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. You will not eligible to participate in either of the below programs if you utilize the Paycheck Protection Program.
The Employee Retention Tax Credit (providing for a refundable tax credit of 50% of qualifying wages paid by eligible employers up to $10,000 per employee); and
The Social Security Tax Deferral Program (allowing employers to defer 50 % of the employer portion of social security taxes to 12.31.2021 and another 50% to 12.31.2022).
Source: American Dairy Coalition 3/31/2020
Other Information for Businesses:
Take Steps to Protect Your Farm Workforce
They also provide a number of printable factsheets and posters in English and Spanish suitable for use in the workplace. (Download at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/factsheets.html)
Your farm workforce is not immune to coronavirus, please begin taking steps to protect yourself and your employees.
Employer Actions Steps
Talk with your employees about coronavirus, how it spreads, and how to prevent getting infected.
Print the CDC factsheets and posters, post in your workplace and employee housing facilities.
Provide guidance to help employees clean and disinfect employer-provided housing. Follow up with employees and manage the process to be sure that this happens. Set up a regular weekly and daily schedule for cleaning.
CDC guidance for cleaning homes: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/cleaning-disinfection.html
Clean and disinfect your workplace. The employee breakroom and bathroom are great places for virus to be transmitted. Clean and disinfect any areas where employees congregate or routinely touch items such as doorknobs and computer keyboards. Set up daily and weekly cleaning schedules.
Provide cleaning supplies such as cleaning solutions, buckets, mops, brushes, etc for cleaning at work and for those living in employer-provided housing. (CDC list of approved antimicrobial cleaning products: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/sars-cov-2-list_03-03-2020.pdf)
Review your sick leave policy. The first advice for people who are sick is to stay home except to get medical care. Do you provide paid sick leave for your employees? If you do not, will employees feel financially obligated to come to work even if they are sick?
Communicate with employees that they should stay home if they are sick. Employees sometimes come to work believing they will face punishment or firing if they miss work. Be sure your employees understand that their health and that of their co-workers’ comes first.
Communicate and make a plan to cover for sick employees. CDC provides posters in English and Spanish covering symptoms of novel coronavirus.
Prepare your disaster contingency plan. What will you do if 50% of your employees become sick and unable to work? Are there neighboring farms who might be able to share resources in an emergency? Who will manage for a few weeks if you or another key manager are unable to leave your house or are hospitalized?
Cornell provides the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) to provide community education resources across the entire disaster cycle of preparedness, response, and recovery.
Penn State also provides farm disaster preparedness resources.
At minimum, share the guidelines below from the Georgia Public Health Department with your employees and family.
While there is currently no vaccine to prevent this virus, these simple steps can help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses:
1.) Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
2). Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
3). Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
4). Stay home when you are sick.
5). Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the trash.
6). Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
OTHER NEWS ON DAIRY AND COVID-19
FDA relaxing VCPR requirements to allow telemedicine
The FDA will implement flexible enforcement of federal veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) requirements, allowing veterinarians to use telemedicine to address animal health needs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The VCPR is the professional relationship between the veterinarian, client (e.g., animal owner or caretaker) and the animal patients. The federal VCPR definition requires that veterinarians physically examine animal patients and/or make medically appropriate and timely visits to the location where the animals are kept. Therefore, as enforced, the federal VCPR definition cannot be met solely through telemedicine.
In order to help veterinarians utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA generally does not intend to enforce the animal examination and premises visit portion of the VCPR requirements relevant to the FDA regulations governing extralabel drug use in animals and Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) drugs. This will allow veterinarians to prescribe drugs in an extralabel manner or authorize the use of VFD drugs without direct examination of or making visits to their patients, which will limit human-to-human interaction and potential spread of COVID-19 in the community.
Although the FDA intends to temporarily suspend certain federal VCPR requirements, veterinarians still need to consider state VCPR requirements that may exist in their practice area.
The FDA plans to reassess the situation periodically and provide revision or withdrawal of this guidance as necessary.
From Progressive Dairy
DHS announces flexibility in requirements related to Form I-9 compliance
Although it has limited applications for farmers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will exercise discretion for Form I-9 employment eligibility verification due to precautions implemented by employers and employees related to COVID-19. This provision only applies to workplaces that are operating remotely due to coronavirus.
Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence.
Employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely – over video link, fax or email – and obtain, inspect and retain copies of the documents within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2. Employers also should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2.
If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9. However, if newly hired employees or existing employees are subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, DHS will evaluate this on a case-by-case basis.
Additionally, employers may designate an authorized representative to act on their behalf to complete Section 2 and sign Form I-9 on their behalf.
The DHS also announced that any employers who were served a Notice of Inspection (NOI) by the DHS during the month of March and have not already responded will be granted an automatic extension for 60 days from March 19. At the end of the 60-day extension period, DHS will determine if an additional extension will be granted.
From Progressive Dairy
Pasteurized milk and dairy products are safe
There is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that heat treatment kills other coronaviruses, so pasteurization is expected to also inactivate this virus.
There is no evidence that this strain of coronavirus is present in domestic livestock such as cattle. The virus is spread through aerosol transmission and close human contact, not through food products.
For more information, visit the Food and Drug Administration’s FAQ page.
From National Milk Producers Federation