Coronavirus: US federal guidance highlights essential role of feed producers, employees

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

 © GettyImages/fotokostic
© GettyImages/fotokostic

Related tags covid-19

In the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, the US Department of Homeland Security has issued guidance, saying US feed and ingredient company employees along with feed crop producers are essential for critical infrastructure.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) drafted a list​ of key workers. 

The intention is that the list could be used to guide state and local communities considering COVID-19-related restrictions aimed at protection of the population while ensuring vital services continue, the agency said.

The guidance can “inform critical infrastructure community decision-making to determine the sectors, sub-sectors, segments, or critical functions that should continue normal operations, appropriately modified to account for Centers for Disease Control (CDC) workforce and customer protection guidance," ​said the DHS.

The list identifies a range of critical sectors including ​medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works.

The focus on the food and agricultural sector includes employees that work in animal feed and feed ingredient “production, packaging, and distribution; manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of veterinary drugs; truck delivery and transport; farm and fishery labor,”​ the agency said.

It accounts for farm workers and supporting service employees that plant feed crops, inspect commodities, run storage facilities or work with agricultural inputs and ethanol production, the agency said. And it also includes "employees and firms supporting food, feed, and beverage distribution, including warehouse workers, vendor-managed inventory controllers and blockchain managers.”

Employees working in fields including “veterinary health; manufacturing and distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs, feed ingredients, feed, and bedding, etc.; transportation of live animals, animal medical materials; transportation of deceased animals for disposal; raising of animals for food; animal production operations; slaughter and packing plants and associated regulatory and government workforce”​ are also covered by the guidance, the agency said.

The move comes as several US feed organizations stressed​ the sector’s importance to state and local officials. The agricultural industry has also asked for recognition​ and support from the administration as additional movement restrictions are put in place.

Supporting state-level COVID-19 responses

However, CISA added that state, local, tribal and territorial governments are responsible for “implementing and executing response activities in communities under their jurisdiction” ​as the federal government is playing a “supporting role.”

“As state and local communities consider COVID-19-related restrictions, CISA is offering this list to assist prioritizing activities related to continuity of operations and incident response, including the appropriate movement of critical infrastructure workers within and between jurisdictions,” ​the agency said.

However, the list is an advisory, not a “federal directive or standard.”

In addition, the sectors and workers identified in the list may not be “authoritative or exhaustive,”​ the agency said.

“Instead, state and local officials should use their own judgment in using their authorities and issuing implementation directives and guidance,” ​CISA said. “Similarly, critical infrastructure industry partners will use their own judgment, informed by this list, to ensure continued operations of critical infrastructure services and functions.

“All decisions should appropriately balance public safety while ensuring the continued delivery of critical infrastructure services and functions,”​ the agency added.

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