The US feed industry representatives, in conjunction with multiple state and regional feed and grain groups, made the request in an open letter Wednesday [March 18] as some states released response plans that excluded animal feed manufacturing sites, transportation, agricultural and non-agricultural retail facilities from lists of essential businesses.
The letter does not argue against the closing of some businesses and retail establishments in the effort to protect human health but asks for recognition of producers, sellers and distributors of livestock, poultry and pet food.
“While we understand and appreciate the efforts to slow this pandemic, we also must recognize that animals must continue to have access to food and therefore, our industry must be able to manufacture, transport and sell ingredients, feed and pet food,” the group wrote. “These products are also purchased from a variety of places, including pet stores, grocers, veterinary clinics and a variety of agricultural and non-agricultural retail establishments.”
“As you look at your next containment steps, we want to ensure that livestock feed and pet food, and the establishments that transport, package, manufacture, process and sell those products, receive the same exemptions as they are vital to the health and wellbeing of animals,” the group added.
By Friday March 20, multiple states in the US had shuttered some businesses and several, including California, Illinois and New York, had announced some version of shelter-in-place orders as part of the ongoing, state-level response intended to curtail the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
It was unclear how some states would treat animal feed or pet food and some had no considered, said Leah Wilkinson, who is the AFIA's VP of public policy and education. “Several state feed and grain associations worked closely with their departments of agriculture and governors to see that the feed industry would be recognized as ‘essential,’ as is currently the case in California, Pennsylvania and New York,” she added.
“AFIA saw this as an area we could get out in front of with other states and worked closely with the federal government on the Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Guidance, which came out Thursday,” she told FeedNavigator. “While this document does not trump state actions, it does provide states with a helpful guide.”
However, although it does specifically reference animal feed and pet food production sites and suppliers, it is less clear about ag retailers that source animal feed and pet food, she said.
Industry guidance and suggestions
In addition to work with state and federal agencies, the AFIA has been gathering information from members on ways to manage production and personnel, said Wilkinson.
“One company is adjusting shift change times so that the two staffs do not interact with one another,” she said. “Another member has identified staff that has their commercial driver’s licenses and can deliver feed should the normal truck drivers become ill.”
The organization is also sharing practical information including “how to deploy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on social distancing and communicating the facility’s operating status with shippers, visitors and customers,” she said.
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) has also compiled information for industry related to Covid-19 and measures being taken by the US Department of Agriculture, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Department of Homeland Security.