Ag Today April 14, 2020

Trump administration to unveil $15.5 billion first phase of coronavirus farm aid: sources [Reuters]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend up to $15.5 billion in the initial phase of its plan to bolster the nation’s food supply chain against the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, according to three sources familiar with the matter. The plan, which could be announced this week, marks the Trump administration’s first big push to ensure the pandemic doesn’t trigger consumer food shortages … “It’s not enough to cover all of agriculture, but we see it as a first step,” said Andrew Walmsley, director of Congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farmer trade group.


With restaurants reeling, produce farmers seek reason to harvest [Bloomberg]

… With restaurants, school cafeterias and sporting arenas closed, the supply chain for food service has seen demand evaporate overnight. The industry normally would serve about 100 million restaurant meals and 30 million school lunches over a five-day period, said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of government relations for United Fresh, a trade association representing the fresh produce industry. … Moreover, as retailers respond to shoppers changing preferences, York said grocery stores are simplifying their inventory by reducing the number of produce stock keeping units, or SKUs, from a normal range of 300-400, down to 60-70.


Local food companies boost workplace protections after employees test positive for COVID-19 [Bakersfield Californian]

Two major Kern County food producers said Monday they are taking new steps to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus after employees of theirs tested positive for COVID-19. Bakersfield-based carrot giant Bolthouse Farms reported that two of its local workers have tested positive. Competitor Grimmway Farms … confirmed at least one COVID-19 case and implied that more than one department has been affected. Both companies said they have instituted extensive protocols for protecting their employees, including asking them to wear masks and taking the temperature of everyone entering their facilities.


Beef plant workers seek assurances amid pandemic [Imperial Valley Press]

Dozens of workers refused to enter the One World Beef plant on Monday amid concerns about the potential spread and exposure to COVID-19 among co-workers within the facility. Their concerns were heightened recently by news that at least one employee — and possibly more, some employees alleged — have tested positive for the virus. In response, the company’s management on Monday authorized the expedited testing of those concerned employees, referring them to an El Centro clinic for screening and evaluation.


Opinion: California’s farm workers desperately need PPE and coronavirus tests [Los Angeles Times]

… Since the beginning of the health crisis, the Mexican consulates have been doing our part to support the entire Mexican community, including those working in the agricultural fields. For more than two months, we have been working to inform farm workers in English, Spanish and Mixteco languages about public health recommendations and how to protect themselves. However, we cannot address the extremely vulnerable situation of agricultural workers alone. In addition to our efforts, employers and state health authorities need to take action immediately before COVID-19 becomes a major crisis among these essential workers.


Coronavirus Impact: Bay Area farmers pre-pack produce for easy, safe shopping during pandemic [KGO TV, San Francisco]

Bay Area residents who are trying to stay safe, eat healthy and support local farmers are fueling sales of pre-packed boxes of fresh produce, often called CSA’s, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a win for consumers and at least a temporary lifeline for some farmers. … The farm-box concept is also coming to the rescue of farmers themselves. “It takes a lot of work, but it’s saving the farm” said Annabelle Lenderink, operations manager of Star Route Farms.