Gov. Kevin Stitt this week issued a fourth amendment to Executive Order 2020-07 requiring the closure of all non-essential businesses located in Oklahoma counties that contain COVID-19 cases.
The governor is adhering to federal guidelines for essential businesses, which designate food and agriculture as one of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors during emergency situations.
Gov. Stitt also provided an expanded list of businesses considered essential for the food and agriculture industry which includes:
- Farm supply and hardware stores
- Groves, greenhouses, nurseries and vineyards
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting
- Food manufacturing
- Beverage and tobacco product manufacturing
- Manufacturing of fiber and forestry products
- Veterinary services
- Certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands
- Food cultivation, including farming, livestock and fishing
- Support of agricultural production including manufacturers, processors, sellers, transporters and suppliers of livestock, poultry, feed, seed, water, fertilizer, herbicides or insecticide and those that care for animals, crops, groves, greenhouses, nurseries, vineyards, forests, farms and ranches
- Hardware stores, farm stores and garden centers
Find the governor’s full list of critical infrastructure businesses here.
ESSENTIAL CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE WORKERS
Oklahoma farmers, ranchers and farmworkers are included in the critical infrastructure worker list for agriculture and food production, along with workers across our state’s food supply chain.
According to federal guidelines by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency, below are the workers defined as “essential critical infrastructure workers” in the food and agriculture industries :
- Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores and other retail that sells human food, animal/pet food, and beverage products
- Restaurant carry-out and quick serve food operations – Carry-out and delivery food employees
- Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees – to include those employed in food processing (packers, meat processing, cheese plants, milk plants, produce, etc.) facilities; livestock, poultry, seafood slaughter facilities; pet and animal feed processing facilities; human food facilities producing by-products for animal food; beverage production facilities; and the production of food packaging
- Farm workers to include those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production, packaging, and distribution; manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of veterinary drugs; truck delivery and transport; farm and fishery labor needed to produce our food supply domestically
- Farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs
- Employees and firms supporting food, feed, and beverage distribution, including warehouse workers, vendor-managed inventory controllers and blockchain managers
- Workers supporting the sanitation of all food manufacturing processes and operations from wholesale to retail
- Company cafeterias – in-plant cafeterias used to feed employees
- Workers in food testing labs in private industries and in institutions of higher education
- Workers essential for assistance programs and government payments
- Employees of companies engaged in the production, storage, transport, and distribution of chemicals, medicines, vaccines, and other substances used by the food and agriculture industry, including pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, minerals, enrichments, and other agricultural production aids
- Animal agriculture workers to include those employed in veterinary health; manufacturing and distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs, feed ingredients, feed, and bedding, etc.; transportation of live animals, animal medical materials; transportation of deceased animals for disposal; raising of animals for food; animal production operations; slaughter and packing plants, renderers, and associated regulatory and government workforce
- Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products
- Employees engaged in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment and other infrastructure necessary to agricultural production and distribution
BEST PRACTICES FOR FARMS, RANCHES AND AGRIBUSINESSES
As farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers continue producing the food and fiber on which the nation depends, below are resources for agricultural workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.
How to protect your farms and ranches
Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry guidelines
Agriculture is incredibly important to a sustained food supply. To continue supporting our food supply, please implement the following practices at your facilities:
The virus spreads primarily from person to person. The health and safety of employees/volunteers should be the focus of every agribusiness.
- Follow all CDC guidelines on preparing your place of work for continuing business.
- Employees and volunteers who are sick or show signs of respiratory illness should not work until they are symptom free.
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before eating, after using the bathroom, coughing or sneezing, and touching surfaces. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Have hand washing stations and plenty of hand sanitizer available.
- Frequently sanitize common areas with EPA registered products for use against COVID-19 that are safe to use in and around livestock.
- Maintain 6 feet of space in between workers
- Keep groups of employees congregated in one area to less than 10.
Find more guidelines in the ODAFF’s COVID-19 and Agribusiness PDF.
Cornell University recommendations
Below are steps farmers and ranchers can take to protect themselves and their employees against coronavirus as provided by Cornell University.
- Talk with your employees about coronavirus, how it spreads, and how to prevent getting infected.
- Print the CDC factsheets and posters, post in your workplace and employee housing facilities.
- Provide guidance to help employees clean and disinfect employer-provided housing. Follow up with employees and manage the process to be sure that this happens. Set up a regular weekly and daily schedule for cleaning.
- Clean and disinfect your workplace. The employee breakroom and bathroom are great places for virus to be transmitted. Clean and disinfect any areas where employees congregate or routinely touch items such as doorknobs and computer keyboards. Set up daily and weekly cleaning schedules.
- Provide cleaning supplies such as cleaning solutions, buckets, mops, brushes, etc for cleaning at work and for those living in employer-provided housing. (CDC list of approved antimicrobial cleaning products)
- Review your sick leave policy. The first advice for people who are sick is to stay home except to get medical care. Do you provide paid sick leave for your employees? If you do not, will employees feel financially obligated to come to work even if they are sick?
- Communicate with employees that they should stay home if they are sick. Employees sometimes come to work believing they will face punishment or firing if they miss work. Be sure your employees understand that their health and that of their co-workers’ comes first. Communicate and make a plan to cover for sick employees. CDC provides posters in English and Spanish covering symptoms of novel coronavirus.
- Prepare your disaster contingency plan. What will you do if 50% of your employees become sick and unable to work? Are there neighboring farms who might be able to share resources in an emergency? Who will manage for a few weeks if you or another key manager are unable to leave your house or are hospitalized?
- Cornell provides the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN)to provide community education resources across the entire disaster cycle of preparedness, response, and recovery.
- Penn State also provides farm disaster preparedness resources.