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Coronavirus: Fresh Produce Industry Resource Page

Mar 27, 2020

In these unprecedented times, we’ve created this resource to help the fresh produce industry and supply chain partners address commonly asked questions, and resources that can help keep you and your business informed.

United Fresh has created a source outlining the proactive steps we’re taking to ensure Americans have access to fresh produce and to help United Fresh member businesses.

Review United Fresh's Efforts

If you’re a consumer looking for information about fresh produce, click here.

How can we ensure congress supports our industry during this difficult time? What aid is available?

Take action! Our grassroots platform makes it easy to make your voice heard. Loans for eligible entities are also available from the small business administration

How does PACA play into this?

One of the most important regulations supporting the fresh produce trade is the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, and especially the PACA Trust. The PACA trust enables produce sellers to have first priority for repayment of debts in the event of a customer’s bankruptcy. Produce sellers actually have higher priority than banks, tax payments or any other debts in the event of a dissolution of assets to debtors.

We strongly advise you to be careful to not inadvertently waive your rights under the PACA trust. The USDA PACA branch has confirmed specific guidance.

USDA PACA FAQs

Where can i find information specific to my state?

The National Governors Association website is a one-stop-shop for state-by-state information.

In light of “shelter in place” and curfews, is food production an essential critical infrastructure?

Yes, the food and agricultural sectors are considered one of the nation’s critical infrastructures. The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for Americans specifically notes that the food supply is essential, and that workers have a special responsibility to maintain a normal work schedule.

The President's Coronavirus Guidelines for Americans

The Department of Homeland Security identifies the specific subindustries that comprise critical infrastructures including food and agriculture. The guidance lists workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing management functions, among others, including food and agriculture.

Review the Food and Ag List

Over 100 associations representing the entirety of the US economy, urged the White House to promote state and local alignment in defining critical infrastructure to limit confusion by local authorities charged with enforcing state or local restrictions

Is there a standard certification to show authorities that a worker legitimately works in a “critical infrastructure”?

If your employees would benefit from a letter that affirms that they are working in support of critical infrastructure, you can download an edit-able file to adapt to your business. TIA (the Transportation Intermediaries Association) also shared a form letter At this time, there is no government issued certification/ authorization, although we continue to communicate the need for alignment to state and federal agencies and understand that the Department of Homeland Security is considering this approach.

Download Critical Infrastructure Worker Documentation

If you are having trouble transporting food or with other major supply chain disruptions please contact FEMA’s national emergency business operations center at nbeoc@fema.dhs.gov

Guidance for individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Mexico in furtherance of such work). Reference Here.

Can fresh produce transmit the COVID-19 virus?

There is no evidence that fresh produce (or any other food, or other product/material) can transmit the virus. FDA’s Frank Yiannas directly addresses this in a post, and there is a food-specific FDA page that has additional detail.

What should my company do if a employee gets sick?

A multi-association group developed guidance, which is aligned with CDC and FDA recommendations. The US Department of Labor Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) addresses this issue here.

Hand sanitizer is in short supply. Here are two resources you can use to find a distillery near you that is producing hand sanitizer:

Will the United Fresh Convention & Expo still take place this June 16-19 in San Diego?

What can my business do to prepare?

CDC posted guidance for employers and businesses related to Coronavirus COVID-19. WHO also provides guidance on this topic.

CDC: Learn More

WHO: Learn More

Additional Employer and Workplace Resources:

How does COVID-19 impact H-2A? 

As a result of our efforts, a number of important steps have been taken related to our workforce. As of March 27, H-2A and H-2B workers will be allowed to enter the U.S. as members of the essential ag workforce.

READ ANNOUNCEMENT

Additional resources:

DOT has suspended Hours of Service Rules, how does that impact fresh produce transportation? 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suspended the current rules regarding Hours of Service for vehicles carrying supplies in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This generally applies to the delivery of fresh produce. Only those supplies being provided to alleviate the crisis (including food) are determined to be eligible for this exemption. Not all requirements under the Hours of Service rule are exempted including drug and alcohol use by drivers

Read the Rule Announcement

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published general emergency FAQ’s 

FMCSA General Emergency FAQ's

How does COVID-19 impact PACA, Inspections and other services provided by USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Services? 

USDA AMS has sent a message to their customers outlining that they will continue to provide regular services to companies that do business with AMS. They also sent a letter of commitment to industry partners.

USDA AMS Letter

Are FDA/ FSMA – related inspections affected? Are 3rd party audits needed to comply with FDA food safety rules?

Yes. FDA has announced that companies (FSVP importers or “receiving facilities” as defined in the Preventive Controls Rule) will not be penalized if they are unable to conduct 3rd party audits in support of their supply chain control/ FSVP programs due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Additionally, FDA is temporarily suspending most foreign facility inspections, and many domestic inspections, unless they are mission critical (e.g., related to an outbreak or Class 1 recall). Further, inspections may be pre-announced.  The agency is also considering alternative ways to perform inspections.

What should my company do if an employee gets sick?

The US Department of Labor Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) addresses this issue here: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html

Industry Resources:

Additional Resources:

Where can I get current information?

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