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Food, Agriculture Considered ‘Essential Critical Infrastructure’ Under Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Order

consumer at grocery storeUnder Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order (EO 2020-21), directing all Michigan businesses and operations to temporarily suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life, Michigan’s food and agriculture industries and related workers will be considered as “Essential Critical Infrastructure” to ensure continued food security.

Scheduled to take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, the E.O. is currently scheduled to run through April 13, 2020, at 11:59 pm.

Individuals may only leave their home or place of residence under very limited circumstances, and they must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when they do so, including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household to the extent feasible under the circumstances.

The Essential Critical Infrastructure designation for agriculture closely mirrors guidelines announced by the Dept. of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on March 19 to ensure the security and resilience of critical infrastructure.

Whitmer’s inclusion of critical infrastructure workers as defined by CISA’s, including agriculture designations, is essential to Michigan consumers, said Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski.

“As Gov. Whitmer continues to make informed decisions to implement additional necessary steps to mitigate COVID-19 exposure for our citizens, we want to reaffirm the commitment of the food and agriculture sector to continue providing consumers a safe and reliable supply of products,” Bednarski said.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Whitmer administration and our partners at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and all state agencies working around the clock to maintain operations and protect the citizens of the state,” Bednarski said.

According to Bednarski, critical infrastructure for maintaining a steady food supply extends far beyond the farm level, noting that it also includes those in the supply chain and food distribution centers, processors, as well as grocery and farm market retail outlets for consumers.

Equally important, Bednarski said, is the movement of input supplies to farmers as they head into the spring planting.

“We are entering a decisive moment as spring arrives — any interruptions now would have long-lasting and dire consequences for the entire year and perhaps beyond,” Bednarski said. “It’s imperative that the food and agriculture associated industries continue operations while exhibiting an abundance of caution and adhering to CDC standards for employers and employees.”

According to Whitmer, Monday’s order was based on a growing case load of COVID-19 patients who are already overwhelming many Michigan emergency rooms, with 1,232 confirmed cases in the state, and 15 deaths as of Monday morning.

“In just 13 days, we’ve gone from 0 to over 1,000 COVID-19 cases,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This is an unprecedented crisis that requires all of us working together to protect our families and our communities. The most effective way we can slow down the virus is to stay home. I know this will be hard, but it will be temporary. If we all come together, get serious, and do our part by staying home, we can stay safe and save lives.”

Whitmer added that state authorities will evaluate whether the order will need to be extended based on, among other things:

  1. Data on COVID-19 infections and the disease’s rate of spread;
  2. Whether sufficient medical personnel, hospital beds, and ventilators exist to meet anticipated medical need;
  3. The availability of personal protective equipment for the health-care workforce;
  4. The state’s capacity to test for COVID-19 cases and isolate infected people; and
  5. Economic conditions in the state.

CISA guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure workforce for agriculture

  • Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retail that sells 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 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 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