Now a COVID-19 hot spot, California agriculture has been working to protect its labor force from the pandemic. However, COVID-19 exposures have occurred and illness reports are on the rise.
“Rising rates in the Central Valley are concerning. California is making $52M available to increase testing, contact tracing and quarantine efforts, and sending strike teams to four counties with increased cases and hospitalizations,” California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted on July 27.
Ventura lemon grower Chris Sayer reported that the impact of COVID-19 on his labor force has been minimal to date. He reported one specific instance of a work delay due to the disease.
“We had to switch contractors for a tree removal job after our primary crew had to quarantine a bunch of guys, and that created a delay in being able to replant,” he said, adding that the impact has been felt in many other ways. COVID-19 shut down a larger market segment for the lemons grown in Ventura County.
“Our lemon harvest was delayed because the packinghouse couldn’t pack more fruit until they moved some of what they already had. And of course, prices are poor.”
Learn more from California lemon grower Will Pidduck on the impact COVID-19 has had on the lemon market.
The rising COVID-19 rate is alarming to many growers outside of citrus, as the harvest of about 350 other crops grown in the Central Valley is now in progress. Except for a few varieties, most citrus is harvested between October and June.
With prevalent use of masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and other preventive measures, employers and employee groups are now working to educate and train workers how to avoid exposure to the disease.
The California Farmworker Foundation has launched a new campaign, La Seguridad Empieza con Usted, which translates to Safety Starts with You. The campaign aims to help the farmworker community stay safe through the pandemic by providing encouragement for best practices and information on additional resources.
The campaign will reach farmworkers in the greater Bakersfield and Fresno growing regions. Advertisements on Spanish-language radio stations will encourage farmworkers to visit the California Farmworker Foundation Facebook page for ways to stay safe during the pandemic.
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