Ag News

Agriculture recognized as critical to COVID-19 response

by Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Mar 20, 2020 at 0:00 AM

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified the food and agriculture sector as being essential and critical to the United States’ COVID-19 response. On March 19, the Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a memo identifying industries and workers who are essential to maintaining our country’s infrastructure by contributing to the public health and safety, economic and national security of the U.S.

Per the CISA memo, its guidance list is intended to support state, local, and industry partners in identifying the critical infrastructure sectors and their essential workers needed to maintain the services and functions Americans depend on daily and that need to be able to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The CISA still maintains that everyone should follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as state and local government officials, regarding strategies to limit disease spread. Workers should be encouraged to work remotely when possible and focus on core business activities. In-person, non-mandatory activities should be delayed until the resumption of normal operations. When continuous remote work is not possible, businesses should enlist strategies to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, separating staff by off-setting shift hours or days and/or social distancing.

Industries the CISA recognized as critical to the COVID-19 response include medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement and public works.

Per the CISA memo, the list is advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered to be, a federal directive or standard in and of itself.

The section of the CISA memo covering food & agriculture is as follows


  • Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retail that sells food and beverage products
  • Restaurant carry-out and quick serve food operations - Carry-out and delivery food employees
  • Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees—to include those employed in food processing (packers, meat processing, cheese plants, milk plants, produce, etc.) facilities; livestock, poultry, seafood slaughter facilities; pet and animal feed processing facilities; human food facilities producing by-products for animal food; beverage production facilities; and the production of food packaging
  • Farm workers to include those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production, packaging, and distribution; manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of veterinary drugs; truck delivery and transport; farm and fishery labor needed to produce our food supply domestically
  • Farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs
  • Employees and firms supporting food, feed, and beverage distribution, including warehouse workers, vendor- managed inventory controllers and blockchain managers
  • Workers supporting the sanitation of all food manufacturing processes and operations from wholesale to retail
  • Company cafeterias - in-plant cafeterias used to feed employees
  • Workers in food testing labs in private industries and in institutions of higher education
  • Workers essential for assistance programs and government payments
  • Employees of companies engaged in the production of chemicals, medicines, vaccines, and other substances used by the food and agriculture industry, including pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, minerals, enrichments, and other agricultural production aids
  • Animal agriculture workers to include those employed in veterinary health; manufacturing and distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs, feed ingredients, feed, and bedding, etc.; transportation of live animals, animal medical materials; transportation of deceased animals for disposal; raising of animals for food; animal production operations; slaughter and packing plants and associated regulatory and government workforce
  • Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products
  • Employees engaged in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment and other infrastructure necessary to agricultural production and distribution

Visit to read the complete CISA memo regarding the industries and workers the Department of Homeland Security has deemed essential and critical to the COVID-19 response.





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