Homeland Security: Ag, food critical industry, workers should stay on job
The Department of Homeland Security today designated food and agriculture one of 16 critical sectors in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, and said that workers in those industries should stay on the job.
In a memorandum, DHS said, “As the nation comes together to slow the spread of COVID-19, on March 16th, the president issued updated Coronavirus Guidance for America. This guidance states that: “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”
“The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) executes the secretary of Homeland Security’s responsibilities as assigned under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to provide strategic guidance, promote a national unity of effort, and coordinate the overall federal effort to ensure the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure,” the memo said.
“CISA uses trusted partnerships with both the public and private sectors to deliver infrastructure resilience assistance and guidance to a broad range of partners.
“In accordance with this mandate, and in collaboration with other federal agencies and the private sector, CISA developed an initial list of ‘Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers’ to help state and local officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.
“The list can also inform critical infrastructure community decision-making to determine the sectors, sub-sectors, segments, or critical functions that should continue normal operations, appropriately modified to account for Centers for Disease Control (CDC) workforce and customer protection guidance.
“The attached list identifies 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.
“The industries they support represent, but are not necessarily limited to, medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works.” (See link below for list of ag and food workers.)
DHS noted, however, that the list is advisory. “It is not, nor should it be considered to be, a federal directive or standard in and of itself.”
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner said, “I would like to applaud the Department of Homeland Security for designating the entire food and agriculture production chain as critical infrastructure as our country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“This action will help ensure that as we face this unprecedented crisis Americans will continue to be able to find nutritious food on store shelves. It provides much needed reassurance to our hardworking farmers as planting season gets underway. I’d also like to thank Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for his leadership and hard work on this issue.
“The Trump administration should especially be commended to recognize the importance of the entire supply chain — from input provides to farmers and ranchers to food processors to retailers. Leaving one link in this chain out of this designation would have made the task facing American agriculture all that much harder.”
A coalition of farm groups wrote President Donald Trump on Wednesday urging him, as the government restricts movements to try to control the coronavirus, to be “mindful” of the needs of agriculture.
“With this year’s spring planting season upon us, we face not only the potential for weather andprice-related challenges but new uncertainties,” the groups wrote.
“As you consider additional steps to restrict movement to protect our nation from COVID-19, we ask your administration to be mindful of the food, feed, and agricultural supply chain and workforce impacts on the ability of U.S. agriculture to meet the needs of consumers.
“These include but are certainly not limited to impacts on accessibility of seed, fertilizer, crop protection products, agricultural labor, equipment, feed and ingredients for food-producing animals, modes of transportation, the availability of required U.S. government inspection services, and daily movement of milk.”