The actions being taken by state and federal officials concerning COVID-19 are causing disruption to business operations for many, including those in the agribusiness industry. As restrictions and regulations are put in place to mitigate the effects and spread of COVID-19, AAI is working with state and federal government to make sure all segments of agriculture are deemed to be essential. It is important that the US food production system in the United States remains as uninterrupted as possible.
The Agribusiness Association of Iowa staff has been on numerous teleconferences over the past few days to help facilitate this message. In addition to working with the American Feed Industry Association, The Fertilizer Institute, and the Agricultural Retailers Association, there have also been multiple teleconferences with Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig and other Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship officials.
The major issues of discussion are those that affect crop and livestock production, care, harvesting, and delivery of all of these products to maintain an uninterrupted food supply for the US and the World. The focus is mainly on special exemptions and waivers for agriculture and the food system, waivers on weight restrictions, CDL licensing – both seasonal and renewals, Hours of Service, feed mill and other ordinary agricultural inspections exemptions, and several other items.
There is a very unified and cooperative approach to these issues among the various agribusiness groups, but all of these requests take time, detailed reasoning, and message reinforcement. Some of our members have direct contact with the Governor’s office or the Secretary of Agriculture. You are encouraged to let AAI know of your concerns as soon as possible and continue to utilize your normal channels of addressing issues.
INDUSTRY ACTIVITY THIS WEEK
Below is a short summary and current status of various requests and actions.
Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship – AAI joined the weekly teleconference for Livestock and helped initiate a weekly call for Agricultural Crop Production. IDALS has spoken with the governor about recognizing the agricultural supply chain as critical and essential. IDALS is currently asking for increases in weight limits and hours of service for ag production. The department is working with industry on overall needs for the movement of crops, nutrients, and other inputs. Pesticide recertification training waivers are expected to be provided as the governor works through her list of items that need attention.
American Feed Industry Association
Multiple teleconferences to discuss issues and draft a letter to the state governors requesting recognition of agriculture as an essential service for the country, with a focus on animal health and feed. The letter was sent to state governors and to the federal government; AAI is included as a signee.
Agricultural Retailers Association
Multiple teleconferences to discuss issues and draft a letter to the state governors requesting recognition of agriculture as an essential service for the country, with a focus on agricultural inputs required to grow the crops this spring and the continued movement of grain. The letter was sent to state governors, President Trump, and other federal leaders.
The Fertilizer Institute
Letter sent to President Trump and other federal officials requesting that the federal government recognize fertilizer and all agriculture inputs as essential services.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has included the following in its list of workers in the United States that are considered essential critical infrastructure workers as the nation addresses the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Farmworkers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs”
“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”
More activity is certain to be taking place during the coming days. We will share additional information and updates with members as it becomes available.
ACTIONS OF AAI AT THE HOME OFFICE
Following the advice of both Governor Reynolds and President Trump, AAI staff are working remotely to do our part to curb virus spread. We continue to represent and serve our members in every way possible and do not anticipate any service interruptions. All employees have all of the technology needed for electronic and telephonic communications. If you call the home office, you may need to leave a message, but staff will be prompt in responding. Feel free to call staff directly on their cell phones.
Also, note that any association meetings that get scheduled will be held via teleconference until further notice.
STATE GOVERNMENT CHANGES
The Iowa Legislature has suspended the 2020 session for a minimum of 30 days. The state Capitol building is now on lockdown.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Iowa Department of Natural Resources continues to be fully operational, with as many staff working remotely as feasible.
All in-person Pesticide Applicator Testing by the state of Iowa is currently canceled. Online training sessions have been approved for the state of Iowa. Info can be found at DicambaTrainingIowa.org
THE TOP PRIORITY
The COVID-19 virus is a serious concern for everyone in Iowa, including both rural and urban areas. Please take the necessary precautions to limit contact where possible and follow CDC guidelines for keeping employees and customers safe. Even as we work to keep agribusiness functioning, we do this knowing that the top priority is the health and safety of the people in our businesses and in our families. We encourage you to keep up to date with the latest recommendations from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Our staff has also had several individual contacts with our membership, identifying current or potential challenges as we make these adjustments. But we want to learn more if you have issues that need attention. If you have any specific concerns about how the COVID-19 response is affecting your business, that we are not already addressing, please contact anyone on our AAI staff to share those ideas and concerns. CEO Joel Brinkmeyer will continue to serve as the point person for relating concerns to Secretary Naig, IDALS, and Governor Reynolds.