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COVID-19 agriculture updates: April 06

As a farmer, I experienced a number of uncontrollable disasters, but nothing like what all of you are experiencing right now. Remember to reach out to someone if you feel like you are at your breaking point.

As far as I am aware, there were no big changes in information over the last two days. Here’s a handful of information about things you can expect to receive soon, some official language, and a request for information:

  1. There are a growing number of reports of equipment being stolen and animals being stolen or fences being cut and animals slaughtered on site. Be sure to mark equipment, don’t keep large inventories of chemicals, etc. on farm, secure fuel tanks, lock gates, don’t leave keys in vehicles/tractors/ATVs. Installing cameras can be a good investment. They are relatively cheap and wireless units can send alerts to your phone. Report suspicious activity to the sheriff’s department.
    • Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office: (941) 861-5800
    • Desoto County Sheriff’s Office: (863) 993-4700
  2. There is an amazing team of people at UF working to do these two things:
    • Create an on-line resource guide to help farmers, ranchers, nursery owners, and aquaculture operations navigate virus-related grants, loans, and support options. I will let you know as soon as the website is up.
    • Create an official assessment of virus-impacts on Florida Agriculture. If you have ever been visited by an Extension Agent after a hurricane for an official damage assessment, you are familiar with one of UF’s disaster roles in in Florida. UF is tasked with assessing the level of agricultural damage in the state during/after a disaster. The information collected is incredibly important: it is the information that is used to determine how much disaster aid the state receives and what that aid should be used for. In the next few days, you will be receiving an on-line official damage assessment survey from me. It shouldn’t take you more than about 10 minutes to fill out. I just wanted to let you know that the survey is coming!
  3. Similarly, UF is providing the state legislature with “reports from the field” every week.  If you have a few minutes, please send me an email with as much or as little information as you feel comfortable sharing. I collect your emails and send them in batches to Gene McAvoy, the UF employee who is compiling the weekly report for the southern half of Florida. If you want to share information about how you are doing on the phone rather than email, feel free to call me any time (my cell is 678-920-0040). Here is what Gene is reporting to the state legislature every week:
    • What impacts are you experiencing in demand, prices, labor availability, and supply chain disruptions, availability, or delays (ex: chemicals, packaging, trucking)?
    • What steps are you taking to educate and protect workers and staff?
    • If it is still business as usual that is valuable info as well.
  4. A very helpful summary of Florida’s Safer At Home Executive Order. Find clear answers to frequently asked questions in the attachment called “Exec Order 20-91 FAQs”.
  5. FDACS sent an email on Friday evening summarizing the efforts that are being made to support the agriculture industry. If you want to read the official summary and updates, I copy and pasted the entire email into a document for you to read. It is the attached document called “Federal Assistance Program email.”
  6. Spanish and Creole versions of farm safety factsheets during Coronavirus
    • For those of you with employees, a UF Extension Agent (Vanessa Campoverde) in Miami-Dade County, our hardest-hit county in the state, has made an excellent fact sheet for farms and nurseries about how to stay safe and prevent the spread the virus.
    • This website has a link to the Spanish and English versions of the fact sheet and a Creole version should be available later this week: http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/miamidadeco/2020/04/03/coronavirus-workers-safety/.
  7. Furlough and unemployment. Last week, I received a question from one of you about whether or not an employee could be both furloughed and collect unemployment. I’m still working on getting an answer.

Sarah Bostick

Sustainable Agriculture Extension Agent
UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County | UF/IFAS Extension DeSoto CountyEmail: sarahbostick@ufl.edu | sbostick@scgov.net
Web: sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasota | www.scgov.net | sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/desoto
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