Farm operators prioritizing health and safety of workers
As COVID-19 continues to affect many U.S. industries, Virginia farmers are taking extra precautions to protect the health and safety of their employees.
In accordance with health and safety measures being outlined by many U.S. agencies, Virginia farmowners are encouraging their employees to increase handwashing and sanitization practices to avoid falling ill. Additionally, farmworkers are being asked to limit their trips to crowded public places to help avoid inadvertently tracking the virus onto farms.
“Farmers are mindful of how quickly COVID-19 could devastate their businesses and communities, and even one case is too many on the farm,” said Ben Rowe, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation national affairs coordinator. “Fortunately, farmers are uniquely prepared to address the health and safety needs presented by this pandemic. Handwashing, sterilization biosecurity and hygiene training for farmworkers is already standard for U.S. farms to meet our nation’s strict food safety standards.”
Rowe explained that because farmers often live and work alongside their employees, they’re already well-versed in implementing health guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, farmowners are continuing to monitor changes made to health and safety policies to best protect their employees and the continued operation of their businesses. They are turning to the CDC and land grant universities to get up-to-date safety information, and using resources on dedicated webpages from VFBF and American Farm Bureau Federation.
“Safety remains a top priority across the food chain, and everyone from farmers to farmworkers and agricultural haulers continue to take great care and precautions to get food safely from the farm to your tables,” Rowe said.
David Hickman, an Accomack County vegetable and grain producer, asserted that keeping farmworkers healthy during the pandemic is “vitally important” to America’s food supply. He noted that if farmworkers are absent from the fields during growing season, a depleted harvest would complicate matters further.
“We could have real food shortages in this country if [farmworkers] can’t plant crops and take care of livestock,” he said. “If we get sick and the planting and caring for crops and livestock doesn’t happen in the spring, we won’t have the supply of meat, vegetables, grain or anything else in fall and winter. It’s important that we are all conscious about our own health as farmowners and our workers’ health to feed the nation.”