Nebraska Farm Bureau is advising farmers, ranchers, and other rural Nebraskans to not underestimate the risk posed by the potential spread of COVID-19. While most of the confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 have occurred in eastern Nebraska, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson is urging all Nebraskans to take precautions to help minimize the potential for spread and encouraging farmers and ranchers to prepare for possible impacts to their rural communities and agricultural operations.
“I know some may view the COVID-19 outbreak as only a concern to our state’s high-density population centers, but make no mistake, the potential for the spread of COVID-19 to rural areas is real. It’s especially serious considering the unique challenges rural hospitals and health care providers may face in treating and containing the virus. It’s imperative we all do our part to try and slow the spread of this highly contagious disease. It’s also critical we make sure our farm and ranch operators are ready to deal with possible ramifications in the event of expanded spread,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.
To aid agriculture producers in preparing for potential COVID-19 expansion, Nebraska Farm Bureau developed a list of things for farmers and ranchers to consider, covering topics from personal health to operational preparedness.
“There’s no reason for panic, but every reason to plan ahead and be prepared,” Nelson said.
The preparedness list includes:
— Protect personal health of farm/ranch owner/operators and employees.
Personal health is an important first step. Washing hands frequently, disinfecting shared surfaces, and making sure soap and other sanitization supplies are available to employees is a key first step. Strengthening immune systems by taking vitamins and making good food choices is another way to stay healthy. For example, beef is good source of zinc that keeps immune systems strong. Doing business over the phone or online when possible can help limit in-person visits and potential exposure.
— Plan for possible labor shortages.
Ask yourself — what is my plan if my farm help can only work limited hours due to school closings or other events? Are there things my employees can do remotely via technology if they can’t be there in person? Do I have others who can help if my current labor force is unavailable?
— Plan for possible supply/input shortages.
Do I have a backup for feed, fuel, and other inputs in the event my normal channels or supply lines are disrupted? Do I have enough supplies on-hand to weather short-term disruptions? Do I have enough on-farm storage capacity for fuel and other inputs if there is an extended shortage?
— Communicate with those with whom you do business.
Stay in close contact with your business partners - including both input suppliers and those to whom you sell commodities and products. Doing so will give you the best information to make decisions. Are processors, co-ops, etc., accepting delivery? Are they running normal schedules and hours?
— Communicate any disruptions.
If you experience or hear of disruptions in supply chains alert Nebraska Farm Bureau immediately via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nebraska Farm Bureau will continue to exchange information with state and federal officials focused on addressing disruptions and maintaining a safe food supply.
“Farmers and ranchers play a critical role in assuring the safety and abundance of our nation’s food supply. In the face of COVID-19, it is imperative we as agricultural producers do our part to help maintain our food system,” Nelson said. That means being prepared on our operations and taking personal responsibility and precautions to help slow the potential spread of the virus.
“By protecting ourselves, our communities, and our farms and ranches, Nebraska farmers and ranchers can play a positive role in working with Nebraskans to collectively address the challenges posed by COVID-19.”