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COVID-19 in Agriculture Overview

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The agriculture and food industries have been deemed essential services, and mitigating risk due to illness is important in maintaining operations.

COVID-19 may change the way you farm. While farm work may seem isolated, think about all the times you connect with others either on your farm or at agribusinesses.

Farm owners are business owners, and communicating a plan to your employees -- whether they are full time or part-time occasional help -- is the first step in worker safety. Sending a clear message to employees about your policies and procedures can help individuals in the operation take precautions seriously. A culture that includes worker safety shows that you have thought about how to protect your workers and that they are important to your operation. As the farm manager, take time to familiarize yourself with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and N.D. Department of Health websites on COVID-19.

Consider:

  • How will you clean and disinfect equipment and work surfaces?
  • What policies and procedures can be modified or created to help reduce risk on your farm related to COVID-19?
  • How will you communicate with employees and co-workers, ag retail professionals, consultants, Extension personnel and others over the course of the season?
  • Are there clear physical distancing measures? Can you separate from others as much as possible?
  • Have you updated your sick leave policy? Is there a plan in place should someone get sick?

Clearly communicate plans with all parties involved as soon as possible. Post policies in multiple areas where everyone can see them, such as the shop door, break room, bathrooms and equipment.

The COVID-19 situation is not normal, and all of this may seem tedious, time consuming or overwhelming. While you cannot completely eliminate the risk of becoming ill from viruses, having and communicating a plan will help minimize risk to you and your employees.

Take care and have patience with yourself and with your employees. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed about your situation. For stress management resources, visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/farmranchstress.