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Author: Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Executive Director

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) has issued vital guidance in response to COVID-19 for farms, markets, and other agricultural businesses. Please review the following information closely.

Agriculture is essential for a safe and reliable food supply.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding announced: “As the Commonwealth takes steps to mitigate against COVID-19 … businesses across the state have been asked to consider if they’re essential or not. Agriculture’s role is unquestionable: access to food is a right; we need local agriculture now more than ever.”

What counts as an “essential business” in agriculture?

Essential businesses for a safe and accessible food supply include farms, greenhouses and vegetable plants, orchards, pest management services, feed mills and ag supply businesses, pet food manufacturers and distributors, agriculture equipment sales and services, animal feed and supply distribution networks, transportation systems from farm to retail, food and meat processors and manufacturers, veterinary services and supplies, distribution and transportation system from processors and manufacturers to retailers, retailers including grocery stores and farmers markets, grocery delivery services, laboratories, and inspectors that ensure food safety.

If I am operating an essential business, am I required to stay open?

PDA encourages the above businesses, especially food production and distribution facilities, to continue operations. However, the decision for essential businesses to stay open or voluntarily close during the COVID-19 mitigation phase is a business-by-business decision.

If I am keeping my business open, what do I need to do to protect myself, my employees, and the public from COVID-19?

All essential businesses that choose to remain open should review and adjust standard operating procedures to minimize risk, take measures to protect their employees, send home sick employees, and minimize or eliminate congregate settings or groups of more than 10 people whenever possible.

Additionally, PDA has issued the following voluntary guidance and recommendations for businesses throughout the food supply chain to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while assuring the security of our food system:

Essential Agricultural Businesses

Farms and On-Farm Deliveries

Farmers Markets and On-Farm Markets

Food Processors and Manufacturers

Dairy Guidance

Finally, PDA recommends that all farms update or write a “Continuity of Business” plan to keep operations running smoothly in case of any disruption. Continuity of Business plans are critical for all operations, however small farms may be at greater risk if a disruption occurs because the owner may be the sole caretaker.

Where can I find more information?

Find other resources related to COVID-19 for farmers and markets here.

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