One question producers and other food industry employers have been concerned about since the onset of COVID-19, relates to ease of travel for farm employees and managers within the agricultural sector. Specifically these individuals are concerned about areas that have been entirely shut down, or where authorities may be monitoring travel. This UF/IFAS Blog will provide a few details that may help producers and other critical personnel maintain mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic relevant to locations across the state.
What is the Critical Industry Workforce?
As a result of the emergence and impact of COVID-19, The Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an advisory list on March 16th with key industries assigned as critical and necessary during a time of disaster. The named “Critical Infrastucture Industry Workforce” list includes federal, state and local governments as well as key industries within the the private sector. This list is intended to help state, local, tribal and territorial officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.
The advisory list includes various aspects of the agriculture industry as well as workers who support crucial supply chains and enable functions for critical infrastructure maintenance (among many other critical industries). State and local governments are responsible for implementing response activities, including decisions about access and reentry to various locations in their communities, while the Federal Government will have a supporting role. Officials in charge of overseeing and regulating travel will be able to use their own judgment in issuing directives and guidance. Similarly, businesses traveling should use their own best judgement in deciding how to proceed under travel bans between locations. A “Safer at Home” order was issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on April 1, 2020. In turn, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has provided resources for agricultural producers to use (see below) to help alleviate travel restrictions for farmers.
Resources for Agri-Businesses
One document that employers and companies have utilized in disaster relief situations includes a “Critical Infrastructure Industry Memorandum” that the driver may keep in possession and present to transportation authorities for compliance and to provide a clear understanding of their purpose for traveling and hauling. This may be a helpful tool to have on-hand to enable freedom to proceed, but the ultimate decision for unrestricted travel is up to the interpretation of authorities who might intervene. The next section below provides several examples to choose from that may be modfied to best fit your farming operation or agribusiness.
Click the links below for samples letters and resources to use when experiencing a travel restriction.
Generic essential employee exemption sample letter provided by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS):
Sample letter provided by Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association (FFAA):
Sample letter provided by a local food industry corporation:
Additional information on the topic can be found at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security homepage, or by accessing the link below.
Sources: Various information and details were obtained from The Department of Homeland Security webpage: https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce. Additional details were provided Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), and Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association (FFAA). Sample transport memorandums were provided by local food industries as references for what is in current circulation.
UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution