Extension Provides Tools to Help Ag Producers Weather COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended all of us, including Florida’s agriculture industry and food systems. We’ve seen empty dairy aisles at supermarkets, while dairy farmers are forced to dump milk they can’t sell to the market. We’ve seen farmers having to sacrifice perfectly harvestable crops. We’ve also seen some businesses struggle to meet the demand of consumers for CSAs and directly marketed produce; along with long lines at food banks for people who are in need of food. This COVID-19 situation has been very eye-opening regarding this major disruption to the long-established supply chains and systems we have here in the US.
Additionally, under normal circumstances, UF/IFAS Extension agents would be making field visits, conducting field days, workshops and short courses with agricultural producers across the state. Travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders have made it necessary to cancel in-person events and Extension offices are closed for walk-in business until April 30. Nevertheless, UF/IFAS Extension is in full operation, and doing much of their work via technology for educational programs and diagnostics of pests, diseases and management issues. Even though Extension agents can’t automatically travel out to the field, we’re working tirelessly to provide resources to help Florida’s agricultural producers adjust to the “for-now normal” of COVID-19. It is critical to also note that because agriculture and food production are deemed “necessary and essential,” agents have been able to obtain the authorization necessary to travel to producer’s operations when technology and digital efforts are not able to suffice.
UF/IFAS COVID-19 UPDATES
UF/IFAS has compiled a list of COVID-19 updates and resources that affect all sectors of Florida’s agriculture, including:
- Connecting with consumers
- Assistance and relief programs
- Guidance on safety practices if your workers are exposed to COVID 19
- Updates and resources for dairy farmers, seafood producers and small farms
- Guidance on U-Pick operations and agritourism
- FAQs on COVID-19 and food safety
- Testing services: UF/IFAS Plant Diagnostic Center and UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Laboratory
These resources and many more are available at https://ifas.ufl.edu/covid19-information-updates/.
The site is updated daily, so please bookmark it and return frequently. If don’t see information you’re looking for, contact Chris Vivian at UF/IFAS Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org).
EXTENSION DISASTER EDUCATION NETWORK (EDEN)
The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) has many COVID-19 resources for agricultural producers, from sources such as the University of Florida, Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and Florida Department of Health: https://piecenter.com/resources/natural-disaster-resources/
COVID-19 ASSESSMENT TOOLS
UF/IFAS has developed a series of surveys to help agriculture businesses assess and report the impact of COVID-19 on their operations. Unlike crop-loss surveys developed for freezes and hurricanes, these surveys will be made available directly to stakeholders and will cover all the ways COVID-19 has impacted your business. The surveys are voluntary, and the information you report is confidential and secure. Data will be used to help state and federal agencies assess the impacts of COVID-19 and develop relief programs that will help your business and countless others recover and be more resilient in the future.
The surveys can be accessed at these links:
- Agriculture/Aquaculture Production, Processing, Transportation (com/uflsurvey-agaquaculture)
- Commercial Fishing (com/uflsurvey-commercialfishing)
- For-hire/Charter (com/uflsurvey-charter)
- Seafood Wholesale Dealer (com/uflsurvey-seafood)
- Marine Recreation Support (com/uflsurvey-recreation)
The first round of surveys is scheduled to close May 15. However, there will likely be follow-up surveys conducted as the COVID-19 situation continues to develop.
UF/IFAS’ Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) has a wealth of new resources related to COVID-19 for every sector of Florida’s ag industry, including agribusiness, produce farms and packing houses, farm stands, grocery stores, U-Pick operations, farmers markets and food banks. Many of these are also available in Spanish. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_covid19
Producers and other food industry employers have been concerned about the ease of travel for farm employees and managers under COVID-19. This guide provides details, sample travel letters and other documentation that may help producers and other critical personnel maintain mobility during the pandemic:
Follow UF/IFAS on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/UFIFASNews/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/UF_IFAS) for up-to-the-minute news and resources about how COVID-19 is impacting Florida’s agriculture. UF/IFAS social media pages in most Florida counties conduct online workshops, webinars and live events to keep you informed and spread the word about supporting local agriculture.
CONTACT YOUR LOCAL UF/IFAS EXTENSION AGENT
UF/IFAS Extension is operating in all 67 of Florida’s counties, and you can contact your local office by going to https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/find-your-local-office/.
While COVID-19 might affect how we deliver our services, it hasn’t changed our mission–to provide research-based, unbiased information that helps Florida’s agriculture businesses thrive through good times and bad, no matter what challenges we face.