PLATTSBURGH — While businesses and citizens adapt to the new normal amid the current COVID-19 outbreak, New York’s farmers are hoping to get to stay at work.
While the federal and state governments have issued orders that private businesses reduce their staff by the 50 percent, the New York Farm Bureau reached out to both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump to ask that farms be exempt.
“Despite the spread of the COVID-19 virus, cows need to be milked, livestock needs to be fed, seeds need to be planted, machinery has to be repaired and regulations mandating environmental compliance will need to be met in order for food to continue to be placed on store shelves,” a letter to the governor said.
“The state’s food security and livestock health depend on obtaining an exemption from mandatory workplace staff reductions or closures for businesses across the state.”
Todd Giroux, president of the Clinton County chapter of the bureau, agreed, saying that in order to keep up with food demands, local farmers will have to be out in full force.
“The work doesn’t stop; people still need to eat,” Giroux said. “We’re as distanced from everyone as we can be. We need all the help we can get. Half the cows aren’t going to stop needing to be milked.”
For now, Giroux said he hopes that bureau members will be as cautious as they can be, and defer to public health officials and experts in regards to any safety measures to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The state bureau’s letters to the state and federal government also expressed concern over the United States’ Consulates suspending in-person processing of H-2A agricultural guest worker visas with spring planting season weeks away.
Giroux said that, locally, that will likely have a greater effect in later months when area apple orchards depend on those workers for picking, though it may affect how those businesses prepare for harvest.
“We all have to keep the faith,” Giroux said. “We’ll get through this together, everybody just has to help each other out.”
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