COVID-19: Farming Resources

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(This page is updated every Wednesday evening. Last update 04/01/2020)

Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee

Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee (PDF)  The organization should complete and sign the form, which their designated employees can keep with them during necessary work activities and travel. 

Letter to N.C. Law Enforcement Regarding Essential Food and Agriculture Employees (PDF) NCDA&CS sent this letter on March 25, 2020, to the five largest law enforcement associations in North Carolina to provide notice about essential employees in the agriculture industry of North Carolina. We are sharing here so our farm and agribusiness contacts can have a copy for their records.

Webinars (as of 04/01/2020)

IMPORTANT:

COVID-19 Resources for Fruit and Vegetable Producers

COVID-19 is a viral infectious disease caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2 or SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 has impacted over 100 countries all over the world and has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). At the moment, there is no cure for COVID-19.

In our home state of North Carolina, there have been 1,584 cases (as of 04/1/2020) and 10 COVID-19 related deaths. Measures such as social distancing, the closure of all K-12 schools, restaurants, and prohibition of gatherings of 10 or more people, restrictions on travel have affected everyone, but are necessary to slow the spread of the virus. Farmers and agri-tourism are facing multiple challenges, from feeding their communities amid concerns of contamination to laying off staff and workers due to enforced closures.

We want to assure you that N.C. Cooperative Extension is still with you, and will help you to get through this crisis. 

Regulations are necessary to ‘buy’ time, to develop vaccines and enough testing possibilities, and to slow down the pandemic (‘flatten the curve’). Ignoring or downplaying the problem makes as little sense as engaging in a hysteria. 

Currently, to help mitigate the spread of the virus, many people, including many of us in Extension, are working from home. However, working from inside a home often is not an option in agriculture, especially not with a busy spring season starting. We know that many emergency regulations and recommendations are already affecting your business, and will most likely have long-lasting effects on you and your neighbors. In this document, we try to keep you updated on the most pressing questions and issues regarding the pandemic:

If part of your company has to be closed due to regulations:

  • Can sales be moved online?
  • Can we function as a ‘store’ rather than a tourism place?
  • How can I make sure that my staff will be able to pay their bills, even if I have to lay them off?
  • Are there possibilities for reimbursement from the state/federal government?

If part of your company (or all of it) is operational: 

  • What are the food safety concerns?
  • How do I have to organize my labor force?
  • How to manage and attract customers in a safe space, despite the pandemic?
  • Work-flow optimization and new technologies.
  • What are alternative sales options?
  • How can I help the community?

We have developed a comprehensive list of resources for you to use:

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1) General COVID-19 Knowledge

North Carolinas’ Governor Cooper as issued a stay-at-home order, going into effect on Mar 30, 5 p.m. As recognized by the Secretary of Agriculture as well as the Commissioner of NC, agriculture is an essential part of this country and our state. Agriculture employees who go to work, but should carry the Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee (PDF) form with them at any time.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) will continue to receive, store and ship USDA Foods and Farm to School produce to all eligible recipient agencies with changes to the operating procedure to enhance social distancing. The NCDA & CS Emergency Program serves works closely with local communities to support agrosecurity, agricultural emergency preparedness and recovery, and rapid response technology efforts by establishing public-private partnerships between vital government agencies, industry, and volunteers.

We recommend to wear gloves when getting in contact with customers and perform distancing practices at all times. If possible, move contacts into open field settings. Washing hands frequently and not touching face and mouth parts are imperative for your own safety. Please see our NC State Extension Food Safety Resources for details.

Important Resources:

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2) How Can I Help My Community?

The question of how to help your community is particularly difficult given the need to physically isolate ourselves from others. However, we are all in this together, and many people will need the help to get access to food and nutrition. As the ones who produce food, we have a responsibility to serve in a time of crisis. Several questions will have to be answered: How can communities come together when they can’t physically be in the same room or less than 6 feet apart? How can we work with organizations to make sure that the most vulnerable of our society will not go hungry? There are plenty of ways that people, particularly farmers, can help during these uncertain times.

For Farmers:

    • Take extra cautious food safety measures. We’ve outlined food safety regulations in the next chapter, but it is worth repeating that food safety measures mean more to the customer right now than they have in the past. Make sure that all employees are trained on proper handling and that they have easy access to sanitation measures while on the job. 
    • Support laid-off workers in any way you can. Given the fact that the H-2A labor force will be smaller this growing season, farms may be short of staff. If it makes sense for your business, consider hiring those in your community who are out of work during this crisis. Please also think about using the NC Farm Link homepage and contact your local Extension Agent if you are in need of labor
    • Donate excess or “ugly” produce to food shelters. If you expect to have a surplus this season, or if you never know what to do with the produce that isn’t up to grocery store standard, consider donating. People may need more help now than they have in the past in terms of getting access to fresh produce. Talk to your local food shelters and ask if they could benefit from your donation.
    • Coordinate with your local farmers market to provide customers with the safest and healthiest shopping experience. If you sell your produce at a local farmers market, talk to those in charge about extra safety precautions that vendors and customers can take. Every farm and market will have different solutions according to community needs, so find what works best for the health of those around you. One solution farmers in the triangle have already taken is to convert to online ordering so customers can order online and then pick up a package of their produce in person. This minimizes the number of people who come into contact with produce, the customer, and yourself. Find resources for setting up online ordering below.
    • Communicate. It’s incredibly important to talk to your fellow community members. Open communication will help you understand the needs of your town and how you can best serve it. Whether it’s labor, supplies, or food, you won’t know how to provide assistance if you don’t know who needs help and what they need help with.
    • Join a food service program. Under the COVID-19 emergency statue, the USDA has issued waiver approvals enabling Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO) sponsors to serve meals in a non-congregate setting and at school sites during school closures related to the coronavirus. Please get in contact with your local Farm Bureau representative to coordinate with those programs.
    • Please reach out to local churches and community leaders to support the needs of your community during this time.
    • Please find resources from CEFS to support our community. CEFS is establishing a list of resources for agricultural production, education, and consumers

For all of us:

Important Resources:

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3) Food Safety

Regulations will impact harvest, packaging, transportation, and sales as well as consumer education on food safety. Natalie Seymour and Benjamin Chapman from North Carolina State University have developed a comprehensive guideline on food safety, which can be found here:  NC State University Farming Resources. The FDA as released temporary policy regarding preventative controls during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Important Resources:

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4) Staff Management

Since 04/01/2020, the USDA is collecting information on the ability to access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) To indicate what your individual farm/nursery needs are please click on the excel form and forward to foodsupplychain@usda.gov with the subject line (Name of Farm or Nursery) PPE/Sanitization Needs.

If you are unsure how to complete the excel form you can also send your PPE needs directly to Robin Tutor from the NC Agromedicine Institute. Email the following information to tutorr@ecu.edu

Information Needed

  • Type of respirators used (e.g., N95, half face, full face)
  • Type of filters/cartridges used (e.g., particulate filter (P100), P100/organic vapor, P100/acid gas (fumigants) 
  • Number of respirators needed for the year
  • Number of filters or combination cartridges needed for the year (by type) 

The federal government is working on H2-A visas and the USDA has set up a special email to address or to voice any concerns regarding H2-A labor: aglabor@usda.gov . Please email this address if you have any concerns about your H2-A labor force.

COVID-19 Restrictions on U.S. Visas and Entry

  • Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee (PDF)  The organization should complete and sign the form, which their designated employees can keep with them during necessary work activities and travel. 
  • Letter to N.C. Law Enforcement Regarding Essential Food and Agriculture Employees (PDF) NCDA&CS sent this letter on March 25, 2020, to the five largest law enforcement associations in North Carolina to provide notice about essential employees in the agriculture industry of North Carolina. We are sharing here so our farm and agribusiness contacts can have a copy for their records. 
  • Make sure that all your stuff has Personal Protective Equipment available!
  • Please use the NC Farm Link homepage and contact your local Extension Agent if you are in need of labor or if you need to lay off people. You will help them and your community.
  • Develop a contingency plan for your staff.  Each producing company has no choice than to keep producing, otherwise business is over. Upholding the production of food is essential during a pandemic. However, to ensure the health of the public, all labor forces should obey regulations and recommendations. A contingency plan will help to organize and manage your labor force. Include full-time, temporary labor and H-2A workers into the plan. What are the responsibilities? How can you create physical and timely distance between your staff? Are there hygiene products available? How do you instruct staff on new work environments? Are there staff members who can work remotely? Who is essential, who can be working from home? How is staff transported? Will staff be tested for SARS-CoV-2?
  • Prepare for smaller work crews.  As of Monday (3/16), the U.S. embassy in Mexico City will no longer process people for the H-2A program who require in-person interviews. This includes people who did not participate in the program last year. The U.S. embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, has shut down completely, and international flights will shut down from 3/22 through 4/12. This could mean labor shortages throughout the state and country as growing seasons ramp up. Make a plan that recognizes the possibility of a labor shortage, and at the same time use local sources for potential labor. There is a good chance that local unemployment will increase over the coming weeks and months. Think about the following questions: What can you achieve if your typical staff is cut by 10% or 20%? What are your adjusted expectations in terms of harvesting, planting, weeding, and overall management capacity?
  • Maintain strong communication with your employees. The COVID-19 case is rapidly evolving, so it is important that you stay educated on any and all important information. It is just as important to then ensure that your employees are up-to-date on any information as it relates to their health, their work, and their families. The CDC has plenty of resources available, and links to resources in Spanish are listed at the end of this section. Consider printing out resources and posting them in break rooms, or printing out enough copies for everyone to have one. What’s most important is for everyone to stay educated, and for information to be passed along calmly.
  • What to do if an employee tests positive for SARS-CoV-2. The question of what to do if an employee falls ill is especially important for the agricultural sector. It’s important to keep in mind that many H-2A workers rely on hourly wages, and they often live in close quarters with fellow farmworkers. If one employee is sick, it is possible that others have been infected, too. Things to consider when developing a plan for workers with the virus could include: 
  • Talk to your local health department. They may have specific guidance on how to respond to a sick employee and instructions on how to keep yourself and your coworkers safe.
  • Consider your policies concerning paid or unpaid sick leave. For example, local health services may be overrun, so it is reasonable to reconsider a doctor’s note requirement in order to give someone the day off. Another question that may be worth asking is: because farmworkers rely on hourly wages, should I expand possibilities for paid sick leave so that workers feel better about reporting symptoms? Every farm operates differently, so review your policies and make the best decisions for the health and stability of your employees and yourself.
  • Sanitation practices are important whether an employee falls ill or not. But if one does, it is important to develop a plan that ensures all coworkers are not exposed to COVID-19. Things to consider are how frequently equipment and common spaces are cleaned, whether to transport farmworkers in one vehicle or multiple, etc.

Important Resources:

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5) Supply Chain

Farmers face a difficult task feeding communities during this time. Despite the need for healthy, fresh produce during a health crisis, the avenues that get produce to people are shrinking or closing down. Restaurants and farmers markets have shut down or reduced operations, and people’s food budgets are consumed by more nonperishables. While no concrete information has come out pertaining to how COVID-19 will affect the produce industry throughout the growing season, here are some things to consider:

    • Important for farmers who lost access to markets due to COVID-19 market disruptions: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture is aware that farmers have seen disruptions in their normal distribution during this period of COVID-19 and social distancing. Retailers have seen panic buying patterns and are challenged to keep produce in stock and merchandised. If you are a NC produce grower and looking to sell products that you don’t have a market for, we want to know. We will be compiling information, from NC growers, to distribute to major retailers on a weekly basis. This is not to be used as an alternate for markets that you already have. This service is set up to help those who don’t have markets to sell what they would normally. Call us weekly to update your availability and be listed in the distribution. This service will last until we no longer see a major need from the growers or interest from the retailers. Read more here.
  • Grocery stores, farmers markets, and farms are considered essential businesses under the NC stay at home order. This means that these businesses can continue to operate. If you are a farmer or farmhand, please fill out and keep this document on your person when you leave your home to work. It will notify anyone questioning you that you are allowed to work outside your home under the statewide order.
  • Determine the best outlets for your product. The normal avenues between growers and consumers may change. For example, some farms may not be able to offer U-Pick anymore due to concerns over disease spread. Be prepared to find alternative ways to sell your produce. Start making connections with grocery stores, processing plants, and other companies that you normally wouldn’t have worked with if you foresee issues with your current outlets. See the NCDA resource listed above or the NC map of intermediary businesses in the food supply chain to gather resources.
  • Look to your local communities. In times like these, it is almost always beneficial to look to your community for help. Whether that means selling directly to your neighbors, coordinating with farmers markets, or selling to smaller, locally owned stores, find people within your community who could support you and vice versa.
  • Prepare for price fluctuations. The FAO Food Price Index saw prices for cereals, vegetable oil, and meat drop from January to February. However, dairy and sugar prices increased. For now, it is unclear how COVID-19 will affect the vegetable, fruit, and wine industry, if at all. But it is still important to make business plans that would best respond to a drop in market price or demand for your products. The FAO also put together a Q&A page responding to common questions pertaining to COVID-19’s impact on food and agriculture.

Important Resources:

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6) Statewide Farmers-market status (4/01/2020)

What are your farmer’s markets doing in response to the outbreak? Here is a list of various markets throughout the state and their operating status (as of 3/24). We cannot cover every market and outlet in the state, so please make sure to check the status of your outlets if they are not listed below.

  • Asheville City Market: Closed until further notice; an interim market site is on the A-B Tech campus in Asheville and is open Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Carrboro Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.; and Wednesdays 3 – 6 p.m.
  • Chapel Hill Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Tuesdays 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; see website for social distancing and sanitation protocol
  • Charlotte Regional Farmers Market: Open Tuesday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Davidson Farmers Market: Closed until May 2, 2020, at the earliest
  • Durham Farmers Market: Closed until further notice
  • Eno River Farmers Market: Closed until further notice
  • Foothills Farmers Market: Opening day (4/4/2020) postponed; see their social media for vendor-specific sales and information
  • Gastonia Farmers Market: Opening April 4, 2020, as originally planned; all scheduled events postponed until further notice
  • Greensboro Farmers Curb Market: Closed until further notice; See website to get information on specific vendors
  • Hickory Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • High Country Food Hub: Open, order online Thursday through Monday, pick-up wednesday between 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Holly Springs Farmers Market: Open 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 4 & 18, 2020; 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. May 2 through mid-October
  • Lexington Farmers Market: Opening Day is May 2, 2020, as scheduled
  • Matthews Community Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Moore County Farmers Market: Open Thursdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Mount Holly Farmers Market: Opening Day is May 9, 2020, as scheduled
  • Nash County Farmers Market in Rocky Mount: Open on Saturday, April 4th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Piedmont Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. @ Winecoff location
  • Rutherford County Farmers Market: Open as a drive-through market 4/4/2020
  • Salisbury Farmers Market: Opening day is April 18, 2020, as scheduled
  • South Durham Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • State Farmers Market (Raleigh): Open; see website for various vendors’ market hours
  • Transylvania Farmers Market: Open Saturday 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. with drive-up service (see website for details)
  • Vance County Farmers Market: Opening day is Apr 25, 2020, operating procedures in the making
  • Wake Forest Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; see website for social distancing and sanitation protocol
  • Watauga County Farmers Market: Opening Day is May 2, 2020, as scheduled
  • Western Wake Farmers Market: Closed until April 11, 2020; hosting pre-order pickup stations at new location (see website for details)
  • WNC Farmers Market: Open daily 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Zebulon Farmers Market: Open in May as scheduled

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7) Financial Help

Many businesses will be affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. RAFI-USA will be offering emergency mini-grants for NC farmers who have experienced a drastic loss of income as a result of the virus and need immediate assistance for household expenses. Congress also signed into law the $2 Trillion stimulus package on 3/27/2020. Several key points can be considered pertaining to the stimulus package and other financial relief efforts:

  • CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act): In total, approx. $49 billion will be used as stimuli of the agriculture sector (or 0.0245% of the total $2 trillion stimulus package). $9.5 billion (or 19% of all agriculture-related funding) will be received by the USDA to directly aid farmers and ranchers. Approx. 50% of the funding assists food and nutrition programs. 2% ($916 million) will be used to replenish staff positions in key mission areas. Please read this article from the Farm Bureau for more details.
  • NC Rapid Recovery Loan Program launched for small businesses with a funding source of $15 million. Managed by the NC Rural Center, loans can be given to eligible businesses for up to $50,000 with zero interest and no payments for up to six months. See the news release for more information.
  • Facebook it offering Small Business Grants ($100Million for up to 30,000 businesses)
  • Can labor be used in other areas of my business? Staff members who plan events, serve food/beverages or who work on farm stands could be used for other tasks on the farm. Spring season is coming up and you might need help planting/harvesting.
  • Do you have business partners who could pick up some of your staff? Leaving staff unemployed is the last thing a small business owner wants to do, but during this pandemic it’s sometimes not avoidable. Finding other employment opportunities for them over the time will help your staff to survive this challenging time.
  • RAFI-USA has announced to help NC farmers by issuing mini-grants for affected businesses. Please sign up to receive updates via email directly from RAFI. They also have a page dedicated to various other financial resources.
  • In connection with the Presidentially declared COVID-19 national emergency, USDA’s Rural Development has placed a foreclosure and eviction moratorium on all USDA Single Family Housing Direct (SFHD) loans for 60 days effective March 19, 2020. Under the moratorium, foreclosures on borrowers with USDA SFHD loans will be completely suspended. USDA will not initiate, process, or complete any foreclosures during this time. Similarly, evictions of persons from properties secured by USDA SFHD loans are also suspended for a period of 60 days.
  • If you are in need of nutrition or food assistance, here are some links to helpful resources: 
  1. Meals for kids during school closures 
  2. NCDHHS Adult Nutrition Services 
  3. Food Finder: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina
  • Various other financial solutions have sprouted throughout communities, nonprofits, state governments, and the national government. Go to your state or local government’s website to find more information on financial resources. And see below for important resources that we have found for you.

Important resources:

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8) Alternative Sales

For farms that rely on local markets to sell their products, it may become difficult to make sales to their typical customers. Farmers markets are technically considered grocery stores, so they are not required to close down. But the typical clientele may be nervous to visit a farmers market, and some markets have closed down anyways in order to protect the health and safety of their community. Despite these roadblocks, there are plenty of options for farms to make sales and provide fresh meat and produce to people who especially need it during this health crisis.

    • First, talk to your farmers market to determine what resources they have available to you. Many markets throughout NC have already developed possible solutions for their vendors. If you haven’t already, talk to those in charge of the market you participate in. They may have procedures already in place to help you get your product to paying customers in an easy and safe way. They may also require collaboration or input from farmers, so prepare to offer any advice or help if they ask for it.
    • Consider a safe and healthy U-Pick option. For farms that can offer this type of experience, it’s important to take the necessary steps to keep yourself and your customers healthy. Take a look at the COVID-19 FAQ for U-Pick Farms document for helpful information that will keep you and your clientele protected from virus transmission. A guide on how to run a UPick operation during the COVID-19 pandemic was also developed, and you can find it in the March 29 NCSU Extension COVID-19 daily farmers update
    • Set up alternative pick-up sites or coordinate delivery services. Alternative sites for pick-up can help farmers sell their produce if U-Pick, farmers markets, or grocery stores are out of the question. Establish a place customers can go to each week until things get back to normal. Or, if you have the capacity, consider delivering produce door-to-door.
    • Take online or call-in orders. Online ordering is another great way to minimize person-to-person interactions. There are plenty of free, online ordering form services (see below). Farmers can also consider creating a google form or taking calls for pre-orders. 
    • Communicate your alternative sales methods to customers. Communication can take place on your website, the market’s website, your social media, and/or email chains. Make sure to clearly communicate what products you’re offering, how people can place orders, how people can pay, the deadline for online orders, and where they can pick up their purchases. It’s also important to be up-front about how you are following food safety protocols.
    • Always follow health department guidance. Whether you continue to sell at a farmers market or if you’ve developed an alternative sales method, it is important to follow health and safety guidelines. Ensure that people interacting with customers in-person are aware of the precautions they need to take and are well supplied with the necessary sanitation supplies. See the health and safety resources listed below.

Important Resources:

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9) Automation / Mechanization

Remote farming solutions and automated farming solutions can not only safe money, in a pandemic, when labor is sacred, possibly sick and hard to find, some solution might help to keep your business operationable. Several Ag-Tech Start-up companies offer remote watering, harvesting, and nutrition monitoring solutions. North Carolina has one of the highest densities of Ag Tech Companies and AgTech Clusters. We highly recommend for you to take advantage of this close proximity of innovation. Look at the solutions they have and evaluate if they make sense for you and your operation, during this pandemic and beyond. Possible solutions could be: Remote watering systems; Remote disease detection systems; Harvest worker GPS tracking and other solutions will be possible.

Tractor-based mechanized tasks are other ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on your farm, and possibly to save costs on a long-run. Mechanized hedging, flower and leaf pulling, tillage, and mechanized harvesting will require usually less labor.

Important Resources:

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10) N.C. Cooperative Extension County Centers Update (4/01/2020)

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11) Agri-tourism and Viticulture Resources

After correspondence with the Virginia Tech Viticulture Program, we recommend that all vineyard, winery and agri-tourism managers and owners keep records of issues that arise due to the pandemic. In order to claim possible assistance later on, it is important to have a proven record of issues now!

  • Executive Order No. 118 – Section 1.(a)(vi) reads: “…restaurants are restricted to carry-out, drive-through, delivery, and onsite consumption in outdoor seating area, subject to mass gathering restrictions… Bars are directed to close…”
  • Executive Order No. 118 – Section 1.(b) reads: “…restaurants are defined as permitted food establishments, under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-248…”
  •  Executive Order No. 118 – Section 1.(c) reads: “…bars are defined as establishments that are not restaurants and that have a permit to sell alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption…”
  • Per ABC guidance, “All on-premise sales and consumption must stop. This includes patios and outdoor picnic tables.” ABC Permit renewals extended to June 30, 2020

Cares Act for the Wine and Agri-tourism Industry:

Benefits of the CARES Act explained by Wine America. The bill authorizes $367 billion in Small Business Administrations Loans (max. of $10 Million per business), from Feb 15 2020 to Dec 31 2020. The bill also provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50 percent of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis. 

TBB and Handsanitizer Production:

Please see this page of the American Craft Spirits Assoc. for all resources and forms needed to produce Hand Sanitizer

Important Resources:

Department of Labor:

Associations:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

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12) How to cope with Stress

Farming is one of the most stressful occupations, even in the best of times. Budget is tight, crop fails, equipment breaks, weather is unpredictable, as is the crop market price and labor is short. Those are the things every farmer has to deal with on a daily basis every day. Farming is hard and often under-appreciated! However, the changes COVID-19 brings can seem more than overwhelming. And if you are facing an existential crisis, that very well can cause excessive stress and anxiety, leading to a lot of negative thoughts and even acts of self-harm, in the light of losing everything. Those feelings can cause a whole cascade of problems, and not too rarely folks try to harm themselves out of shame, or hopelessness. 

The good news is that there are many warning signs you can catch early, before you or someone you love gets to this point. Often stress levels rise, and can reach toxic levels. While everyone copes with stress differently, there are some tell-tell signs of toxic stress: 

  • Changes in physical health: trouble sleeping; no appetite; headaches; stomach distress; excessive fatigue; muscle cramps and aches
  • Changes in behavior: not doing usual activities (ex. church), not taking good care of farm or home; missing important meetings; increased substance use (including excess drinking)
  • Changes in thinking: trouble concentrating or making decisions, being more frequently critical over small things; negative thoughts about self that won’t go away
  • Changes in emotions: loss of enthusiasm, anxiety, depression, sense of hopelessness, not able to feel close to loved ones

If you or someone you love checks several of the above mentioned boxes, it is important to act now and find ways to cope before things could get worse. Some simple daily life measure might actually help: 

  • Physically: Eat three good meals a day. Make sure you got the nutrition you need. Limit your caffeine intake and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Stay physically active!
  • Mentally: try to plan ahead, and accept that there is a pandemic. Set priorities, and don’t be afraid to say “no” to non-priority activities. Set realistic daily goals. Catch yourself if you fall into negative thoughts (“I always mess up”) and replace those thoughts by remembering times you have solved complex problems and been successful.
  • Emotionally: This is important: If you do not feel well, reach out to those people you trust! Talking to your family, doctor or faith leader can be extremely helpful. 

However, with COVID 19, external factors can just pile up and cause more and more stress, even if you do all the above mentioned things. If stress is preventing you or a loved one from performing daily tasks, a counselor or therapist often is the best solution. We have listed some resources below. 

If you don’t know how to find one, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) (you don’t have to be suicidal or harm yourself to call),  or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat. 

Therapists and Lifeline are always confidential, and can be great help and can save a life. You do not have to be in crisis to be connected to a trained counselor in your area and can talk with them to find services.

Those information were provided by Anna ScheyettPhD, UGA-LCSW amscheye@uga.edu

Important Resources:

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We will keep this document updated over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark Hoffmann (Small Fruits Extension Specialist; mark_hoffmann@ncsu.edu)
Emma Volk (Research Technician, Small Fruits Research Group; evolk@ncsu.edu)
Xiaonan Shi (MS Student, Small Fruits Research Group; xshi8@ncsu.edu)
Rania Hassan (Horticulture Program Fruit Extension Group; rhhassan@ncsu.edu)
Amanda Lay (MS Student, Small Fruits Research Group; amlay@ncsu.edu)

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