Agriculture deemed critical industry during COVID-19 virus pandemic
Homeland Security on March 19 announced that agriculture is among 16 industries the department deems a critical infrastructure industry that should continue operations. While this may not have come as any surprise to the thousands calving cows, many of them in blizzard conditions Thursday, it provides some guidance.
The roles recognized by the department as critical include those raising animals for food, animal production operations, slaughter and packing plants and associated regulatory and government workforce, veterinary health, farm truck delivery and transportation, those involved in field crops, and a host of others in supporting industries.
The Livestock Marketing Association said it is actively working with federal, state, and local officials to ensure the continuity of business while taking into account the public health consequences of the COVID-19 virus situation. The group said in a press release that markets are essential to producers as well as to maintaining the infrastructure and food supply for consumers.
As some states have placed limits on attendance at public events and mandated restrictions on restaurants, LMA said they are working with markets on a case by case basis to evaluate impact on sales. Currently, the LMA is strongly suggesting contingency plans.
Chelsea Good, LMA’s vice president of government and industry affairs, said livestock markets are exempt under the federal recommendation but said it is a recommendation and as states and local municipalities are making their own designations, LMA is working with markets to remain exempt by state and local definitions.
In order to mitigate disease spread, the LMA suggests utilizing social media and websites to communicate changes to producers. In the case of needing to reduce crowd size, request that consignors drop off livestock and not remain on the premises for the sale and offer flexibility to sellers needing to pick up checks by offering to bring checks to their vehicle.
Some markets, including Centennial Livestock Auction, are encouraging buyers to sign up for online bidding accounts prior to sales and have moved to online sales. Many production sales already offer online bidding and are continuing to do so.
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association asked Governor Jared Polis on Tuesday to allow markets and bull sales to continue despite limits on gatherings, though no answer had been received at press time.
In a letter to Gov. Polis, the CCA said the sale of livestock is a critical element of the food supply system and at least 14 markets sell livestock in the state as frequently as weekly. Additionally, bull sale season is in full swing in the state, constituting for many, an annual paycheck. Interruption of these sales would have lasting impacts throughout the food chain and are time sensitive.
Sterling Livestock Commission manager Jason Santomaso said Friday morning they are moving forward with the regular and production sales so vital to producers this time of year though online bidding remains an option.
In Brush, Colo., Chuck Miller, owner of Auctioneers Miller and Associates, said regular sales would continue as they are outdoors and are necessary as buyers and consignors alike, many of whom are farmers and ranchers, make the time sensitive, necessary decisions that will affect future crops. AMA has offered online sales for a number of years, as well, and will continue to do so. However, Thursday evening, Gov. Polis announced an updated executive order shuttering additional non-essential businesses. Miller said after conferring with legal counsel, the usual Wednesday and Saturday sale will be an online-only Wednesday and Thursday sale. ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 768-0024.