When Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, she advised reporters during the press conference that the executive order is just that — an order — not a guidance document.
Those found to be in violation of the order will be charged with a misdemeanor.
While the executive order recognizes Michigan’s food and agriculture industries and related workers as “essential critical infrastructure” to ensure continued food security, the Michigan Farm Bureau and the Michigan Agri-Business Association are recommending farmers take some additional steps to ensure farm employees can avoid problems with local law enforcement.
Communicating to your employees will be important. It may not be immediately apparent to people across the state, including agribusiness employees reading news reports, that food and agricultural businesses can continue to operate as essential infrastructure. MFB recommends considering a communication to employees detailing your operational plans.
MFB also is encouraging farm employers to provide a letter to employees who are carrying out essential functions. The organization recommends employees be provided a brief in-transit letter on company letterhead identifying them as an employee of a food or agricultural business.
Health and safety remain paramount. This order is about protecting public health, and MFB strongly urges employers to review the social distancing and best practices information available both in the order and at michigan.gov/coronavirus.
MDARD has established an email address for the industry, stakeholders and consumers to submit questions or get clarification on specific areas of concern: MDARD-COVID19@michigan.gov.
Businesses deemed “essential critical infrastructure” should, to the extent possible, follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as state and local government officials, regarding strategies to limit disease spread — which includes social distancing, frequent handwashing and sanitizing of surfaces.
Workers should be encouraged to work remotely when possible and focus on core business activities. In-person, nonmandatory activities should be delayed until the resumption of normal operations.
When continuous remote work is not possible, businesses should enlist strategies to reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, enhanced cleaning protocols, separating staff by offsetting shift hours or days, and social distancing. These steps can preserve the workforce and allow operations to continue.
Michigan Farm Bureau legal counsel Allison Eicher suggests farm employers should already be making plans to protect the safety of their workforce and maintain normal business operations to the extent possible, should COVID-19 have a significant effect now and into the future.