Trump administration has labeled agriculture as a
critical industry in the wake of the coronavirus
outbreak, allowing businesses to continue operating as
usual amid current and potential restrictions created to
stem the spread of the virus.
The declaration came
by way of the Department of Homeland Security, which
extended the designation to the entire food and
agriculture production system. Farm groups in recent
days had been concerned about the potential for movement
restrictions put in place to limit exposure of the
virus, including the potential for halted shipment of
inputs needed for the upcoming planting season.
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President and
CEO Chuck Conner said the move “provides much needed
“The Trump Administration should especially be commended
to recognize the importance of the entire supply chain —
from input provides to farmers and ranchers to food
processors to retailers,” he said in a statement.
“Leaving one link in this chain out of this designation
would have made the task facing American agriculture all
that much harder.”
Yesterday, more than 40 farm groups sent a letter to
President Donald Trump asking that the administration
“be mindful of the food, feed, and agricultural supply
chain and workforce impacts on the ability of U.S.
agriculture to meet the needs of consumers.” The
Department of Transportation’s Federal motor Carrier
Safety Administration has already lifted
hours of service restrictions for livestock
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National Pork Producers Council President Howard "A.V."
Roth welcomed the guidance; NPPC was among many groups
pushing for the official designation this week.
"We recognize that states and local governments are
working hard to ensure operational continuity," he said.
"As part of that effort, we urge state and local
governments to swiftly follow and implement this federal
directive. We need to ensure there is a continuous and
uninterrupted supply of pork to America's kitchen
The Fertilizer Institute also welcomed the move after
sounding the alarm yesterday about the important timing
of the designation. In a letter to
congressional leaders and the Trump administration, TFI
President and CEO Corey Rosenbusch noted the upcoming
planting season and said the "timely delivery of plant
nutrients to American farmers is critical to their
ability to produce food, fuel, and fiber."
The ag industry is facing a long list of unforeseen
complications as the virus hits thousands of people
across the country. Farm groups are
concerned about labor issues should critical workers
become infected and are also worried about the approval
process for H-2A workers seeking to come to the U.S.
to work during the upcoming planting season.
So far, agribusiness interests say they’re operating as
usual. The Food and Drug Administration has suspended
some of its inspection activities, but USDA’s Food
Safety and Inspection Service has not, and USDA leaders have
said they will “continue to ensure that grading and
inspection personnel are available.” Meat packing plants
cannot operate without a USDA inspector.
DHS notes the designation is advisory in nature and "is
not, nor should it be considered to be, a federal
directive or standard in and of itself."
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