The nation’s essential agricultural industry has worked relentlessly through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure food is put on the tables of American families. Agricultural employers recognize that the health and safety of their employees are imperative to the success of their operations. These employers also recognize consumer demand for fresh, safe and nutritious produce. For years, agricultural employers have adhered to strict policies assuring the health, hygiene and safety of their employees. Now, these employers have implemented even more protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the 46th annual Agricultural Labor Relations Forum presented by the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation, Michael Marsh, president and CEO of the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE), spoke about essential protections for agricultural workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marsh says growers have been doing a great job following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for agricultural workers by promoting safety on and off the farm.
Across the agriculture sector, employers have instituted best practices including social distancing, enhanced hygiene and sanitation stations and procedures, special COVID-19 employee training, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and limitation of non-essential visits and travel.
In addition to following CDC guidelines, industry members are also calling for the federal government to take additional steps and devote new resources to help growers protect their employees.
Alternative housing structures to facilitate greater social distancing, accessible and timely COVID-19 testing resources, and prioritizing PPE and future vaccine distribution for the food and fiber supply chain are among the list of items that the agriculture industry would like to see addressed.
Since hotels aren’t always available in rural communities, housing with more rooms and more beds would allow for additional social distancing among employers.
The NCAE published a frequently asked questions document for H-2A employers regarding COVID-19 issues. See the document.
Ashley Robinson, AgNet Media communications intern, wrote this article.