In response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issuing a stay-at-home order due to COVID-19, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried explained why agriculture can continue working. “Florida’s farmers and ranchers put food on the tables of our neighbors across the state and nation,” Fried stated in a media release issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
FDACS has made available a downloadable template of a document that agricultural businesses can use for their workers to prove they are part of an essential industry and are exempted from the stay-at-home order. It is recommended workers keep these letters in their possession at all times.
FDACS also provided a downloadable document with COVID-19 safety guidance for food supply-chain workers. The information applies to those in the citrus industry who work in fresh fruit packinghouses and juice processing plants. Following are a key few points from that document:
“To prevent spread of COVID-19, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is recommending individuals employ social distancing or maintaining approximately 6 feet from others, when possible,” the document states. “The risk of an employee transmitting COVID-19 to another is dependent on distance between employees, the duration of the exposure, and the effectiveness of employee hygiene practices and sanitation.”
The document also states that “food production/processing facilities/farms need to follow protocols, including cleaning protocols, set by local and state health departments.”
The document concludes by noting that the CDC and other federal agencies have stated “that there are no reports at this time of human illnesses that suggests COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.”
On the evening of April 2, Fried and Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick held a tele-town hall meeting to discuss Florida agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen to the discussion here.
Among numerous other topics, Fried referred to MyFloridaMarketPlace, the State of Florida eProcurement system. The system is designed to streamline interactions between vendors and state government entities. Get more information here. Those wishing to participate in any FDACS COVID-related produce-purchasing programs must register on the site. Register here.
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