EAST LANSING, Mich. — With the convergence of major weather events, natural disasters, depressed economic conditions, catastrophic infrastructure failures, and a pandemic that has affected nearly every country in the world, 2020 has been a spectacularly unfortunate year for the United States agriculture industry. The outbreak of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, compels farmers to develop and implement a pandemic preparedness plan that reduces the risk of exposure and disease transmission. Michigan State University Extension has created a set of resources that can help farmers gain a better understanding of their obligations as a business owner/operator, find answers to questions regarding exposure mitigation techniques, and develop a pandemic preparedness plan tailored to their operation.
Among these freely-available resources is a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) document composed of inquiries from MSU Extension webinars, Q&A sessions and farmer-submitted clarification requests regarding pandemic preparedness plans and the COVID-19 Hazard Assessment and Mitigation Program (CHAMP) tool. The document offers guidance to farmers as they work to implement protocols that meet the standards set forth in executive orders issued by the Michigan Governor’s office.
Executive Order 2020-161, which updates the initial order issued on May 1, 2020, calls for the development and implementation of health and safety practices aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 through worker-to-worker transmission as well as transmission between workers and the general public at public-facing operations. These requirements included provisions for:
- Appointing a responsible individual to implement, monitor and routinely evaluate the effectiveness of the operation’s pandemic preparedness plan.
- A health screening process designed to prevent workers with COVID-19 symptoms, or workers that have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, from entering the premises.
- Spatial separation of workers (also known as social distancing).
- Use of personal protective equipment (PPE) if and when necessary to prevent disease transmission.
- Higher standards of facility cleaning and disinfection.
- A written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan consistent with CDC and OSHA guidance. The plan must be made available to employees, labor unions and customers.
The FAQ document also highlights some of the requirements in Executive Order 2020-137: Protecting the Food Supply and Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers from the effects of COVID-19 (signed June 29, 2020). Owners and operators of employer-provided migrant housing camps licensed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) are obligated to provide camp residents:
- The same safeguards that businesses are required to provide their workers while at work.
- Six-foot spacing between beds.
- Isolation housing for unconfirmed COVID-19-suspected residents.
- Housing, dining and bathroom facilities for residents with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
MSU Extension’s CHAMP is a free tool that farmers and associated businesses in the agricultural industry can use to:
- Assess the risk for transmission of COVID-19 within their operation.
- Identify effective task-specific mitigation options.
- Develop a written pandemic preparedness plan that satisfies regulatory requirements within the State of Michigan.
The CHAMP tool is regularly updated as provisions set forth in executive orders are added or refined.
Please note: All content provided in the MSU CHAMP tool is intended solely for informational purposes. The content provided does not constitute legal advice, nor does it take the place of any written law or regulation. Any link provided to a non-MSU site does not constitute an endorsement of any such site or its owner, nor does MSU attest to the accuracy of the content on such site. Michigan State University is not liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the use of the MSU CHAMP tool.
Employers play a vital role in limiting the spread of COVID-19 throughout their communities. We consider this a shared burden and are working to provide the agricultural industry with tools and resources to overcome the challenges brought on by the current pandemic. While these resources are intended to provide quick and straightforward answers, we understand that every business is unique and may require special consideration. Operationally specific questions, clarification inquiries and requests for assistance with pandemic preparedness plan development can be directed to:
Jeremy Jubenville – MSU Extension Floriculture and Greenhouse Crop Production
— Jeremy Jubenville, Melissa Millerick-May and Elizabeth Ferry, Michigan State University Extension
For more news from Michigan, click here.