WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the world grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security on March 19 provided new guidance recognizing the food and agriculture industries as critical infrastructure.
U.S. food and agriculture was included among 16 critical industries in the DHS guidance. The move encourages state and local authorities to allow farms and the entire food-supply chain to continue operating as usual amid current and potential restrictions created to stem the spread of the virus, according to a news release from the National Milk Producers Federation.
“This declaration allows farmers to do what they do best — feed U.S. consumers — in a time of acute need and anxiety,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “Agriculture is working around the clock to ensure timely delivery of safe, abundant food. That’s what farmers always do — but in a time of unprecedented public-health concern, a fully functioning food system is even more critical to national health and well-being.”
Among these critical workers:
- Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees — to include those employed in food processing (packers, meat processing, cheese plants, milk plants, produce, etc.) facilities; livestock, poultry, seafood slaughter facilities; pet and animal feed processing facilities; human food facilities producing by-products for animal food; beverage production facilities; and the production of food packaging.
- Farm workers to include those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production, packaging, and distribution; manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of veterinary drugs; truck delivery and transport; farm and fishery labor needed to produce our food supply domestically.
- Animal agriculture workers including those employed in veterinary health; manufacturing and distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs, feed ingredients, feed, and bedding, etc.; transportation of live animals, animal medical materials; transportation of deceased animals for disposal; raising of animals for food; animal production operations; slaughter and packing plants and associated regulatory and government workforce.
National Pork Producers President Howard "A.V." Roth, a pork producer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin, said in a news release, “We urge state and local governments to swiftly follow and implement this federal directive. We need to ensure there is a continuous and uninterrupted supply of pork to America’s kitchen tables.”
Corn Refiners Association President and CEO John Bode said in a news release that during these “uncertain times for all Americans the good news is that the U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world and many companies are increasing the levels of sanitation and food safety testing beyond what is required by law or any regulatory guidelines during this pandemic.
“But we also need to ensure that our government, at all levels, is continuing to work hand-in-hand with the industry and providing clear guidance to ensure that our supply chain remains solid and food is being moved to consumers as quickly and safely as possible.”