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 was updated on March 28th. The updated document 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.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The executive order can be viewed at this link.
“Stay Home” Order Issued for Arizona – What does it mean for Arizona Agriculture?
On Monday, March 23rd, Governor Ducey issued the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” executive order for Arizona. According to the Governor’s order, Arizonans “may leave their place of residence only for Essential Activities, to participate in or receive Essential Government Functions, or to participate in or fulfill Essential Functions” as outlined in the order.
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.
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.
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)
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.*
U.S. Department of the Treasury - Assistance for Small Businesses
Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a new guaranteed loan program, which includes $349 billion, 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 will be available through June 30, 2020.
Applications can begin on:
Note: The Paycheck Protection Program is separate from the economic disaster assistance (EIDL) grants administered by the Smalll Business Administration. The application for EIDL grants were released yesterday, but the application currently states that agricultural entities are not eligible for the loans. State Farm Bureaus are working with American Farm Bureau in an attempt to clarify and remove that provision and open up the grants to agricultural businesses. Please be on the lookout for additional guidance as we receive it.
American Farm Bureau Article - Update: Paycheck Protection Loans Available to Farmers, Regardless of Revenue, Apply Now
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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.
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.