These are uncertain times, with many farmers & meat processors busier than ever, while others are loosing key markets, such as restaurant sales, farmers markets, and custom work. This page will be continually updated each week as new information & resources become available. Page updated 5/26/2021.
USDA FSIS Resources & Communications
Letter from Dr. Phil Bronstein, Assistant Administrator of OFO, USDA FSIS, regarding FSIS-Regulated Establishment Facility Management and FSIS Field Employees. Includes the body temperature at which FSIS staff should not work (100.4 F) because it could indicate fever and illness.
As of 4/4/2020, USDA is recommending that their employees wear face masks when out in plants or in the field and follow strict hygiene and physical distancing while in plants. See official letter here.
As of 5/17/2021, fully vaccinated FSIS inspectors no longer have to wear masks/face shields inside plants (but they can elect to keep wearing them if they so wish). If the establishment or other facilities where duties are being conducted require face masks and/or face shields, FSIS employees will continue to follow those requirements. See special alert here.
Symptoms of Coronavirus Infection
Please see the CDC website for the latest information, but here is a simple chart to help you determine if you or any of your employees may have the virus.
Virus protection at the farm level
Considerations on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) for Farm Operations, a CSU Extension document. Key take-aways are:
*Improve your farm’s hygiene and sanitation programs by making them more frequent and in-depth.
*Have ill employees stay at home.
*Keep high-touch surfaces clean and sanitized.
*Reduce numbers of customers at points of sale at any one time.
*Stay informed and responsive by checking updates on the CDC and your local public health websites.
Virus protection at the processor or retail level
Check out the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses & Employers to Plan & Respond to COVID-19. Changes are being made to this page almost daily, so please check regularly.
See this recent AAMP presentation by food safety consulting firm- We R Food Safety. Essential Strategies for Food Safety during Covid-19
Also, CSU’s Center for Meat Safety & Quality just put together this Guidance for Small/Medium Meat Processors Related to COVID-19.
Online Sales Platforms
Want to sell online right now? Here are some options for online sales platforms for food, most of which also process payments. Not all of them are well equipped to sell meat, so you need to do your research when picking one (meat producers have told me that Barn2Door, Grazecart, & Shopify work best for meat). They also charge different fees, such as a % of sales or a set monthly fee. Also, check out this recent webinar that Oregon Tilth organized featuring representatives from 5 of the platforms- Harvie, Barn2Door, Food4All, Local Food Marketplace, and Open Food Network.
Local Food Marketplace https://home.localfoodmarketplace.com/
Local Line https://site.localline.ca/
Electronic Payment Systems
Shipping/Home Delivery of Meat
Check out the next NMPAN webinar on this topic. If you cannot attend live, it will be recorded and archived onto our YouTube Channel. Here is the recording.
Farm to Freezer: The Logistics of Online Sales & Shipping Meat
When: Thursday, April 2nd 9amPST/12pmEST
Hear from three experienced panelists who sell their meats online & ship direct to consumers. Let’s turn the COVID-19 pandemic into an opportunity to connect our niche meats to hungry consumers. Topics will include: setting up an online store, different web platforms, accepting payments, updating inventory, meat selection, subscriptions versus ala-carte orders, boxes, insulation, dry ice, maintaining cold chain, shipping carriers, costs, & regulations. This will be more of an informal discussion than a formal presentation.
Looking for sustainable packaging solutions for delivering/shipping meat? These manufacturers have been recommended by meat producers:
Worker Safety/Employee Resources
It is probably a good time to offer paid sick leave options for your employees, if you don’t already have a policy in place. Allow your sick or potentially sick employees to stay home. Congress just passes an expansion of the FMLA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) to require employers to offer up to 2 weeks paid sick leave starting on April 2, 2020 through the end of the year. Some small businesses are exempt, but it is a smart business practice to offer it even if you are small. Here are some suggested documentation requirements you may need from your employees to utilize IRS tax credits for providing paid leave.
Be extra alert to employees health conditions. Ask them how they are feeling at the start of the work shift. Take temperatures as a matter of course (may or may not be allowed if you have a unionized work force). Encourage good hygiene. Wear gloves and masks when processing or packaging food. Here is a guide that AAMP put together on how to go about conducting temperature screening on your employees.
Consider offering a temporary pay increase, hazard pay, more generous overtime pay, or a bonus for consistently showing up the next 4-8 weeks. This will not only show good will, but it will boost employee morale and let them know you care about your workforce. Some members of the NMPAN listserv are currently offering weekly bonuses of around $120/week during the pandemic.
Travel Letter (in areas with travel restrictions or curfews): AAMP produced this generic employee travel letter, as they are essential during this time.
Financial Support for Businesses & Workers
*New* Paycheck Protection Program from the SBA. As of 4/16/2020 all of the PPP funds have been expended until Congress approves an additional package. Will update as we find out.
The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses (under 500 employees) to keep their workers on the payroll. SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Apply now 4/3/2020 through 6/30/2020.
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans & other resources page
Learn about USDA Agricultural Marketing Service LAMP grants here.