Agricultural producers make decisions in a risky environment every day. With the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the globe, producers are faced with decisions that could have major impacts on their farm operations.
There are three primary risks associated with COVID-19 that all farmers should consider at this time. They are:
— Disruption of income;
— Impact on food and farm safety;
— Impact on human health.
Disruption of income
Normal marketing channels have been disrupted in a number of ways because of coronavirus. Regular farm contracts have been reduced or canceled because of the closure of schools and other institutions, and the limiting of services or closure of restaurants. In addition, farmers markets may either be closed or have limited operating hours, depending on their location and local restrictions.
Some things to consider to help protect farm income are:
— Create or build another marketing channel, such as selling online via a website or social media;
— Establish an on-farm pickup service;
— Join or create a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group;
— Join or create a food hub;
— Combine resources with other farmers for production and post-harvest handling;
— Access lender resources, if needed, such as insurance documents, loans, and other financial records;
— Communicate with your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension Center, Farm Service Agency (FSA), Risk Management Agency (RMA), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and other providers of resources and services.
Food and farm safety
Produce and farm contamination from COVID-19 can be a major risk for farmers. The following guidelines can help you minimize that risk:
— Create or review a food safety plan per the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act guidelines;
— Practice good agricultural practices;
— Create procedures for customers who visit your farm;
— Follow social distancing guidelines;
— Pick your own produce and create a pickup system for U-pick operations;
— Sterilize production and postharvest equipment after each use.
Coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19 is a real possibility. Be aware that some people do not show symptoms but may still have the virus and spread it.
To protect the health of you, your workers, and your customers, consider the following:
— Follow COVID-19 health guidelines, such as those provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
— Wash hands frequently;
— Wear gloves and a mask;
— Ensure good health for anyone who works on the farm, including yourself.
For more information, please contact Nelson Brownlee, Extension Area Farm Management agent, at 910-671-3276, by e-mail at [email protected], or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.
Nelson Brownlee is a Cooperative Extension Area Farm Management agent. He can be contacted by caling 910-671-3276 of via email at [email protected]