COVID-19 has significantly affected the entire world and every sector of industry. Businesses have been forced to close, people are working from home, and daily life functions are limited. Fortunately, the agriculture industry is still in business. Farmers are still farming, and ranchers are still ranching. Many people think because of the store shortages that there are shortages in agriculture production. This is not the case; agriculture production is still happening every day. Agriculture has been deemed a critical/essential industry by both the federal and state government to help ensure the nation’s food supply remains viable. However, there are still questions and concerns about the ability to operate farms and ranches as seamlessly as possible. Below is information and resources to help ensure farm and ranch businesses are able to successfully operate in light of current conditions.
Farming and ranching, along with the ancillary businesses that keep them functioning, are critical to ensuring the nation’s food supply. Below are links to federal and state documents providing guidance and/or directive on the industries and sectors classified as critical and/or essential.
The guidance document has been updated several times since it was originally released. The updates have provided clarity around a range of positions needed to support critical infrastructure and to help state and local jurisdictions, as well as the private sector identify and manage their essential workforce while responding to COVID-10. The updated guidance document (Version 3.1 May 19, 2020) can be viewed at this link.
This list is advisory in nature and is not a federal directive or standard. This list is also intended to be continuously reviewed and amended as the COVID-19 situation changes. Should you have any questions or would like to provide input, DHS officials urge industry to send information and questions to Cisa.email@example.com.
The executive order can be viewed at this link.
“Stay Home” Order Issued for Arizona – What does it mean for Arizona Agriculture?
UPDATE:Governor Ducey issued the Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger executive order (2020-36) on May 12th. According to the Governor's office, the new guidance aligns with gating criteria issued by the White House and Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and aims to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 resurgence, protect vulnerable populations, and guide the reopening of businesses with enhanced physical distancing and safety measures in place. The Stay Healthy Return Smarter, Return Stronger order replaces the order that expires on May 15th. The new order also rescinds the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected" Executive order 2020-18, as well as executive orders 2020-24 and 2020-33.
Click here to see all the executive orders issued by Governor Ducey.
Farm Worker Safety
As a critical industry, it is important that employers communicate to their employees what can be done in the workplace to protect their employees and themselves. Below are resources for addressing the coronavirus in the workplace.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) -
Guidance for Agricultural Workers and Employers
The CDC and U.S. Department of Labor has issued interim guidance for agriculture workers and employers in response to COVID-19.
The guidance states that workers on farms, ranches, and other production agriculture work sites are considered critical infrastructure workers within the food and agriculture sector. The guidance urges all agriculture work sites to follow to the extent feasible, relevant aspects of CDC guidance.
Click here for the guidance that provides a template of action to protect agriculture workers from COVID-19. Agricultural employers can adapt the recommendations to protect workers at their particular work sites or in specific work operations.
Click here for the Agricultural Employer Checklist for Creating a COVID-19 Assessment and Control Plan
Fact sheets and Posters
Link to various printable fact sheets and posters in English and Spanish including the following:
Guidance for Businesses and Employers
Link to Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers includes the following topics:
COVID-19 Confirmed or Exposed Workers – What to Do
The CDC has also provided guidance on implementing safety practices for critical infrastructure workers who may have had exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Link to Q & A page for information in the following areas:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Link to Interim EPA Health & Safety Guidelines for information in the following areas (published July 6, 2020):
Facemasks, cloth face covering, respirators
The FDA has created a fact sheet in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control to provide as a reference for various face coverings worn by workers.
COVID-19 Confirmed or Exposed Workers – What to Do
The FDA published a summary on what to do if you have COVID-19 confirmed positive or exposed workers in your food production, storage, or distribution operations regulated by FDA. The guidance is derived from CDC recommendations and outlines key steps that employers and workers can take to help stay open, prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19, and support continuity of essential operations if workers are diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19, or show symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) -
Other comprehensive COVID-19 Resources can be found at the following links -
Worker Protection Standard (WPS)
EPA released guidance regarding the annual pesticide safety training requirements outlined in the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS). Click here for the guidance that offers flexibility during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act & Paid Sick Leave
Last week the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law. Two main provisions apply to agriculture employers; a requirement to provide paid leave and a requirement to provide paid sick leave. These requirements start April 2 and remain in effect through the end of the calendar year. The requirements apply to employers with 500 or fewer employees which means that most farmers and ranchers will need to provide benefits.
Employers will be able to reduce the amount of Social Security taxes they owe to compensate for providing the required paid and sick leave. If the expense exceeds the amount of Social Security taxes due, then the government will issue the employer a payment. Self-employed individuals are also able to claim paid sick leave credits. More information about how the tax credits will work is expected to be released by the IRS next week.
Additionally, covered employers are required to post the employment law poster related the FCRA. A link to the posters can be found here.
American Farm Bureau provided the following link to an article posted by the accounting firm, CliftonLarsonAllen, that provides a good summary of the new law. Click here for article.
Please click on the following links for additional information:
If you have specific labor or tax questions related to your business, we recommend contacting an employment lawyer and/or a certified public accountant.
OSHA Guidance on Reporting Workplace Illness of COVID-19
On May 26, 2020 the OSHA enforcement guidance for recording cases of coronavirus disease will go into effect. This new guidance provides criteria to help employers determine if reporting is necessary.
Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, COVID 19 is a recordable illness, as a result employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19. Employers with 10 or fewer employees have no recording obligation except work related COVID-19 illness that results in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.
For those subject to reporting, please click here to review the criteria provided by OSHA in determining if a COVID case is considered work related.
U.S. – Mexico Border Closure
U.S. and Mexican officials have mutually determined that non-essential travel between the United States and Mexico poses additional risk of transmission and spread of COVID-19 and places the populace of both nations at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. U.S. and Mexican officials have mutually determined that border crossings will be limited to only “essential personnel.” This includes:
Click here for DHS’s guidance.
Department of Labor H-2A Guidance
The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Foreign Labor Certification has published information regarding the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Labor Certification Program and COVID-19
Click here for Frequently Asked Questions (March 20, 2020)
Click here for Round 2 Frequently Asked Questions (April 1, 2020)
Click here for Round 3 Frequently Asked Questions (April 9, 2020)
Additional information and resources can also be found at farmers.gov
Transportation – DOT Expanded National Emergency Declaration for Commercial Vehicles
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has now released two FAQ documents to provide guidance on its expanded national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (Click here for DOT Expanded Emergency Declaration related to COVID-19.)
Expanded Telemedicine Coverage
Governor Ducey issued an Executive Order on March 25, 2020 requiring health care insurance companies to expand telemedicine coverage for all services that would normally be covered for an in-person visit. The order helps ensure that Arizonans who may be sick or under quarantine can access care from their homes and avoid potentially risky trips to a health care provider. It remains in effect until the termination of the declared public health emergency.
Click here for Expansion of Telemedicine Executive Order
Telemedicine Expanded to Include Pets and Animals
Executive Order 2020-19 was issued on April 1st that allows pets and animals to be examined by veterinarians through telemedicine. Under the order:
According to the Order, all electronic means of delivering veterinary telehealth, including telephone and video calls, to enable individuals to remain in their homes are allowed under the Executive Order. It also prevents veterinarians from charging more for telemedicine than for an office or in-person visit.
Click here to view the Telemedicine for Pets and Animals Executive Order.
Arizona Department of Agriculture Operations
Please click here to see how operations at Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA) have changed as a result of the Governor’s Stay at Home Executive Order.
If customers need to go to the Phoenix office, you are encouraged to call and make an appointment. Phone numbers for the various Divisions are provided in the link above.
*Most of Arizona’s government agencies are implementing similar operations to those employed by AZDA. If you need to visit an agency in person, you are encouraged to call them first.*
Arizona Department of Health Services
Click here for information regarding recommendation for distancing, sanitation, and communication at Arizona farmers markets.
U.S. Department of the Treasury - Assistance for Small Businesses
Paycheck Protection Program
*Click here to see how the PPP was updated and revised by the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act.*
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a new guaranteed loan program for small businesses to keep their employees on the payroll. Eligible businesses include nonprofits, veterans organizations, Tribal business concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors – with 500 or fewer employees.
Loans are capped at $10 million but can include up to eight weeks of the businesses average monthly payroll costs from the last year plus an additional 25 percent for non-payroll costs. Seasonal and new businesses will use different calculations. The PPP resumed accepting applications on July 6, 2020. The new deadline to apply for a PPP loan is August 8, 2020.
American Farm Bureau Article - Update: Paycheck Protection Loans Available to Farmers, Regardless of Revenue, Apply Now
Farm Bureau Bank - Paycheck Protections Program loans are available through Farm Bureau Bank. Click here for more information.
USDA Paycheck Protection Program FAQs - Click link here - Once at USDA page scroll down the page and click on the "Paycheck Protection Program" tab.
Overview of SBA funding programs available through the CARES Act - Click here (Source: Greater Phoenix Economic Council)
PPP Loan Forgiveness Application - SBA has released the PPP Loan Forgiveness Application Form. This is the form that PPP participants will need to complete and submit to their lender to determine the amount of the loan that is forgiven. The obligation to complete and submit the forgiveness application form rests with the PPP participant, not the lending institution. If an application for loan forgiveness is not received the entire PPP amount received by the participant will continue to be treated as a loan. The SBA will be releasing additional guidance to assist borrowers complete the form. Borrowers will be able to begin submitting this application in mid-June.
There are two loan forgiveness applications available to borrowers:
The US Chamber of Commerce has prepared a four-page PPP Loan Forgiveness Guide to help navigate and understand the loan forgiveness process. Click here for the Guide.
*Farmers and ranchers should consult with their accountant, tax preparer, and/or financial advisor about the PPP application and loan forgiveness form to ensure all the proper documentation has been completed and reviewed.*
SBA released an interim final rule that updates the First Loan Forgiveness Rule and the First Loan Review Rule. These updates reflect the changes that were included in the Flexibility Act. The updated interim final rule can be viewed here.
The original SBA and Treasury Department Interim Final Rules that provide borrowers and lenders guidance on the requirements governing the forgiveness of PPP loans are listed below.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs)
In the original CARES Act, agricultural entities were incorrectly excluded from this loan program, which can offer an immediate advance of up to $10,000 in addition to millions more in a low-interest loan to cover operating and other costs. Ag entities can apply for this program through the Small Business Administration's website. Click here for the EIDL portal.
Agricultural businesses include businesses engaged in the legal production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)). Eligible agricultural businesses must have 500 or fewer employees.
Farmers and ranchers should continue consulting with their accountant, tax preparer and/or financial advisor about the PPP and EIDL application for their particular situation because this additional funding will be available on a first-come-first serve basis and will go quickly.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide
The USDA has released a document, the COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide, described as a “one-stop-shop” of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by COVID-19. The resource includes information regarding federal funding and partnership opportunities that help address the impacts of COVID-19. Click here for the USDA guide.
FSA Relaxing the Farm Loan-Making Process
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) in a news release notes it is relaxing its loan-making process including an extension in the deadline for applicants to complete farm loan applications, extending deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, and modifications to servicing guaranteed loans.
Note: USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only.
Click here for more detailed information regarding the updates to USDA farm loans.
Marketing Assistance Loans - Loan maturity now extended to 12 months: Click here for additional details.
RMA Authorizing Additional Flexibility for Producers
USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) is authorizing additional flexibilities due to COVID-19. RMA is providing support to producers working through Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) to deliver services, including processing policies, claims and agreements. These flexibilities include: enabling producers to send notifications and reports electronically, extending the date for production reports and providing additional time and deferring interest on premium and other payments.
RMA News Release: Click here
RMA COVID-19 FAQs: Click here
USDA Rural Development
The USDA Rural Development Agency is implementing various actions and procedures to provide relief to its customers, partners and stakeholders in the following areas: rural housing service, rural utilities service, and rural business-cooperative service.
Click here for the full USDA announcement.
Funding to Support Vulnerable Arizonans During Pandemic and Opportunity for Direct Market Growers
Governor Doug Ducey announced an initial $6.7 million in funding to support Arizona food banks, nutrition programs and programs that serve the homeless. The dollars are part of a $50 million COVID-19 relief package signed into law over the weekend by Governor Ducey and will have an immediate impact for Arizona’s most at-risk communities.
$1.75 million is being dedicated to improve food security in Arizona. This includes:
If direct market growers want to connect with their local food banks to sell their product, they should go to Friends of the Farm.
Economic Impact Payments
The CARES Acts provide Economic Impact Payments of up to $1200/individual or $2400/couple plus $500 per child for those who earn less than $ 75,000/individual or $150,000/couple.
The IRS announced a portal for tax filers to provide the IRS with bank account information in order to expedite the receipt of Economic Stimulus Payments. The IRS says without direct deposit information, it will take up to five months to receive a payment through the mail. It is not necessary for taxpayers who used direct deposit for their 2018 or 2019 tax filings to provide additional information. The IRS portal for providing direct deposit information can be found here: https://sa.www4.irs.gov/irfof-wmsp/login
Earlier the IRS announced a portal for individuals who were not required to file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 to provide direct deposit information. Such Individuals who receive Social Security benefits do not need to provide additional information. This IRS portal for providing direct deposit information can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here