Pennsylvania Farm Bureau
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and its affiliated companies—including MSC Business Services, Safemark, PFB Health Services, and pfbSOLUTIONS—will continue to serve members and clients. However, some restrictions are being put in place with respect to public health guidelines to limit the spread of the virus by practicing social distancing and to comply with the governor's March 19 order that all non-life-sustaining businesses close their physical locations.
- PFB’s state office in Camp Hill is closed to comply with the governor's order. Staff will continue to conduct business and assist members via phone, email and other technology.
- Field staff, such as regional organization directors, will continue their normal activities but conduct business via phone or other technology as much as possible to avoid face-to-face meetings.
- MSCBS will remain in full operation but account supervisors will utilize technology as much as possible to avoid in-person meetings.
- In line with the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance to suspend large gatherings, we have cancelled the 2020 State Legislative Conference and the FARMER Dinner. We are working with county Farm Bureau leaders to continue our grassroots advocacy via other channels. Meetings will be conducted via technology whenever possible.
- Due to the closure of schools across the state, the Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation’s Ag Literacy Week visits will not occur this week as originally scheduled. All Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab visits scheduled through March 27 have been postponed. The foundation staff is working with schools with ag lab visits scheduled through the end of the year regarding the best path forward through this ever-changing situation.
While PFB’s offices are closed, staff is working remotely during this time and are still accessible and able to help our members. In addition, PFB’s family of companies remain open, including Safemark, which can handle member’s needs for tires and other equipment, and MSC Business Services, which is available to help members and their businesses.
- PFB Government Affairs and Communications staff are working remotely. Email is the quickest way to get answers to your inquiry. If calling, please MAKE SURE to leave a voice mail, which will be returned as staff are available.
- Contact your Regional Organization Director for your member relations needs.
- Safemark can be contacted at 717.724.9484.
- MSC Business Services can be contacted at 717.731.3517. You can also contact your account supervisor if you are already a client.
Agricultural operations are allowed, and encouraged, to remain in operation during the pandemic to ensure a safe and accessible food supply. PFB has compiled the following information related to guidance, changes, and resources that relate to agriculture during this time.
What's a "life sustaining" business?
On March 19, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all "non-life-sustaining" businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations and has said that his administration will enforce the mandate through the state police and other state agencies.
Most agricultural operations are considered by the state to be essential and life-sustaining as are many businesses that support production agriculture, including food processors.
Click here for a full list of which types of businesses may or may not remain open under the governor's order.
- According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, examples of essential businesses for a safe and accessible food supply include farms, greenhouses and vegetable plants, orchards, pest management services, feed mills and ag supply businesses, agriculture equipment sales and services, animal feed and supply distribution network, transportation system from farm to retail, food and meat processors and manufacturers, veterinary services and supplies, distribution and transportation system from processors and manufacturers to retailers, retailers to include grocery stores and farmers markets, grocery delivery services, laboratories, and inspectors that ensure food safety.
- PDA has given updated guidance as of March 27 for facilities, such as riding stables, that are responsible for the care and welfare of animals. Such facilities are also considered life-sustaining and may remain open for animal care. They are encouraged to follow PDA's on farm guidance for preventing spread of COVID-19. Livestock boarding facilities must make their own decisions as to whether to allow animal owners to visit. PDA cannot offer legal advice on this matter and encourages facility owners to discuss with their own legal counsel. If visitors are allowed, they should come during scheduled appointments and practice social distancing.
Forestry and sawmills are now included as life-sustaining businesses but were excluded from the original list.
- Click here for an FAQ about the life-sustaining businesses order.
- PDA has clarified that while construction, in general, is not considered "life-sustaining," farm construction projects may continue as they relate to a life-sustaining operation. Construction businesses may remain open to serve life-sustaining businesses, such as farms, only.
- The governor has a issued "stay-at-home" order that now includes the entire state. Agriculture-related activities are exempt because they are related to life-sustaining businesses. Click here to learn more.
Safety guidance for agriculture:
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and other agencies and organizations have issued guidance and recommendations for agriculture businesses to operate in a manner that helps to limit the spread of COVID-19 to protect the health and safety of farmers, employees and the public.
- Click here for PDA’s guidance for farms.
- Click here for PDA’s guidance for farmers markets and on-farm markets.
- Click here for PDA’s guidance for grocery stores, which should also be followed by any farm with a public-facing business.
- Click here for guidance for dairy producers from the Center for Dairy Excellence, including recommendations for protecting employees.
- Penn State Extension has also issued detailed guidance for minimizing risks at farmers markets and on-farm retail operations. Click here for more information.
- Food processors should follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance for preventing spread of COVID-19 within their facilities. Click here for complete details.
- Livestock markets should follow certain protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Click here for complete details.
- Guidance is available for what food retailers and processors should do if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19. Click here for complete details.
- The governor's office has posted information about the necessity of maintaining access to our food supply. Click here for more information.
|Other changes affecting farms and agriculture:
- The governor has ordered bars and restaurants to close their eat-in facilities, which will affect a variety of Farm Bureau-member businesses, including restaurants as well as distilleries, breweries, cideries and wineries that have facilities for eating and/or drinking on site. These businesses may remain open to offer carry-out and delivery. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has also mandated that all of its license holders stop serving food and alcohol for on-site consumption or risk losing their license.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation is allowing some flexibility on drug and alcohol testing requirements in areas where testing availability is limited due to COVID-19. Click here to learn more.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a waiver from some CDL-related regulations. Click here for more information.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has exempted livestock haulers from Hours of Service rules that limit drive time until at least April 12. It’s suggested that drivers who wish to haul under this exemption print out and keep in their cab a copy of the Expanded Emergency Declaration. Click here for a printable copy. Click here for FAQs issued on March 19 and click here for additional FAQs published on March 25.
||Federal government operations:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued temporary enforcement discretion for livestock farms with NPDES permits so that farms making every effort to comply with environmental regulations are not penalized for complications related to COVID-19-related disruptions. That includes assurance that EPA will excuse permitted concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that house more animals than normal because they are unable to send animals off-site. Click here to learn more and see the complete details.
- Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27. The measure will: Replenish $14 billion of the Commodity Credit Corporation’s spending authority; create a $9.5 billion emergency fund for producers, including dairy and cattle producers, fresh fruit and vegetable growers, and local food systems like farmers markets; provide extra funds for USDA’s APHIS, FSIS, AMS and rural development; and provide cash payments to individuals and will reduce or delay taxes paid by many farm and ranch businesses.
- USDA Farm Service Agency is relaxing its loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need. Click here to learn more.
- USDA Risk Management Agency is offering flexibility related to crop insurance, including enabling producers to send notifications and reports electronically, extending the date for production reports and providing additional time and deferring interest on premium and other payments. Click here to learn more.
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has closed the the southern border with Mexico but has clarified that agricultural workers and lawful cross-border trade are essential travel that may continue. Click here to learn more.
- The FDA is relaxing certain regulatory requirements to allow veterinarians to better utilize telemedicine to address animal health. Click here to learn more.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it is prepared to continue its core operations including inspection services, economic research, agricultural marketing, services to farmers and more although some processes may be shifted to limit in-person meetings. USDA is also working with crop insurance agents to ensure services to farmers continue.
- USDA Service Centers will serve Pennsylvania farmers by phone appointment and field work only. All service center visitors wishing to conduct business with the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other USDA agency must call their service center to schedule a phone appointment. Click here to learn more.
- While the full effects of the COVID-19 situation are not yet known, the international turmoil caused by the virus is likely to lead to marketing and supply chain challenges for farmers and agribusinesses. The situation may also delay the increase agricultural exports that was expected due to the new Phase One trade agreement with China and the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement. Farm employers may also experience labor shortages if employees are sick and required to self-isolate. Farm Bureau will monitor the situation to provide important updates to members. Click here for more details.
Farm Bureau is aware of cases of producers being asked to dump milk as some Class I processing plants are operating at capacity due to complications related to COVID-19. We are continuing to advocate for dairy producers at both the state and federal levels in an effort to help bring about a solution to this situation and ensure producers have the resources they need to continue their important work.
PDA has offered the following guidance for producers who have to dump milk:
- If the milk never left the farm, it may be disposed of in the manure storage.
- If the milk was sent to the processor and returned, the product that came back from the processer would be considered Food Processing Residuals, which is under the authority of DEP. Click here for the relevant sections of DEP’s food processing residual manual, which would need to be followed.
- Producers are encouraged to document all losses so they can apply for disaster assistance if it is made available through USDA.
- The Center for Dairy Excellence is hosting a conference call April 7 to discuss the effect COVID-19 is having on the dairy industry. Click here to learn more.
- Click here for COVID-19 resources for dairy producers from the Center for Dairy Excellence.
- Click here for COVID-19 resources from the National Milk Producers Federation.
- USDA has granted producers flexibility in regulations related to dumping milk. Click here for a letter from Federal Milk Order No. 1 outlining the changes and here for a summary of FMMO actions related to COVID-19.
|| Farm labor / employees:
- The U.S. Department of State is expanding the number of H-2A visa applicants allowed to forgo an in-person interview, which will allow more agricultural guest workers to arrive to work on U.S. farms. Click here for additional information. This change was needed because visa services for immigrants and non-immigrants had been suspended by U.S. Consular Operations in Mexico and elsewehre, which affected the arrival of workers through the H-2A program. Farm Bureau sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to recognize visa processing for H-2A and other non-immigrant agricultural workers as “essential” and to treat all agricultural worker appointments as emergency visa services. Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has also asked members of the state’s congressional delegation to sign onto a similar but separate letter from members of Congress.
- Click here for a Q&A from the U.S. Department of Labor that includes important information for H-2A employers.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Labor recently announced they will work together to help identify foreign and domestic workers that may be available to transfer to other U.S. agricultural employers. Click here to learn more.
- A new coronavirus-relief bill passed by Congress and signed by the president requires businesses with 500 or fewer employees to offer paid sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19 and expands the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Click here for guidance on these new requirements from the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Important safety information for farm employers is available by clicking here.
||State government opperations:
- The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex has cancelled all events scheduled for March.
- The Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory and Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System (PADLS) will remain open. The veterinary lab temporarily reduced hours to Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon but will accept samples 24/7. See updates here. The PADLS labs located at Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center may have some limits on hours and services. See the most up-to-date information for the Penn State site here and for the New Bolton site here.
- Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture regional offices are closed.
- Penn State has canceled all public events through at least May 15, which will affect Cooperative Extension programs. Registration fees paid for cancelled events will be refunded. Some events will be rescheduled and people who registered previously will receive an invitation to attend. Click here to learn more.
- Penn State Extension offices are closed but staff remain available to support the agriculture community virtually. Click here to learn more.
- The governor has ordered all "non-life-sustaining" businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations. Click here for a full list of which types of businesses may or may not remain open under the governor's order.
- The U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin announced that tax filing deadlines will be extended from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties. The deadline for 2019 income tax payments for individuals up to $1 million and for C corporations up to $10 million has been extended to July 15. Click here to learn more.
- Pennsylvania has also extended the deadline for filing state personal income taxes until July 15. Some local governments have also extended tax-filing deadlines. Check with your local Earned Income Taxing authority to see if they have extended the filing deadline.
- The governor has issued "stay-at-home" orders that now include the entire state. Residents may leave home for certain reasons only, such as tasks essential for the health and safety of their households. Click here to learn more.
- PennDOT Driver License Centers and Photo License Centers will be closed for two weeks. Driver licenses, photo ID cards, learner’s permits, vehicle registrations, safety and emissions inspection stickers and disability parking placards that have an expiration date between March 16 and March 31, will be valid until April 30.
- The federal deadline to enforce REAL ID has been extended until October 2021, a one-year extension. Click here to learn more.
- State liquor stores are closed.
- The primary election has been postponed to June 2. Registered voters may apply for mail-in ballots. You may apply for a mail-in ballot online or by mail. Your application must be received by your county elections office by 5 p.m. on April 21. Click here to learn more.
- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is temporarily shifting to a cashless-only tolling system to avoid face-to-face interactions between toll booth workers and drivers. As a result, cash and credit cards will no longer be accepted at turnpike toll booths. Customers who have E-ZPass can continue to use it as normal. Customers who don't have E-ZPass should continue to use lanes marked “Tickets” on entry and “Cash” on exit, however they should keep moving through the lane at the posted speed without stopping. Instead of paying their toll on the roadway, they will receive a TOLL BY PLATE invoice through the mail. Click here to learn more.
- The Pennsylvania Turnpike previously closed indoor areas of service plazas but has reopened them for limited service. Indoor restrooms are open, tables and chairs are removed from the dining area, and there will one fast food restaurant open at each location from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. serving a limited take-out-only menu.
- PennDOT had previously closed all 30 of its rest areas but has reopened some based on which are most used by truck drivers. Indoor restrooms will remain closed but there will be five portable toilets at each open location. Electronic messaging signs will alert drivers to the nearest open rest area.
Farm Bureau Advocacy
Throughout these uncertain times, Farm Bureau is working for you at both the state and national levels to make sure you are able to continue your important work ensuring a safe and accessible food supply.
What we’ve done:
- Sought clarifications and additions of agriculture-related businesses to the governor’s “life sustaining” business list, including forestry and sawmills.
- Supported passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed on March 27. The measure will: Replenish $14 billion of the Commodity Credit Corporation’s spending authority; create a $9.5 billion emergency fund for producers, including dairy and cattle producers, fresh fruit and vegetable growers, and local food systems like farmers markets; provide extra funds for USDA’s APHIS, FSIS, AMS and rural development; and provide cash payments to individuals and will reduce or delay taxes paid by many farm and ranch businesses.
- Successfully advocated for Pennsylvania to extend the deadline to file state personal income taxes until July 15. Some local governments have also extended tax-filing deadlines. Check with your local Earned Income Taxing authority to see if they have extended the filing deadline.
- Urged lawmakers to address the closures of PennDOT rest stops and Turnpike plazas so that truck drivers have access during this time for critical deliveries.
- Successfully advocated for temporary changes to H-2A visa requirements to help facilitate U.S. farms' access to agricultural guest workers amid COVID-19-related restrictions on visa processing activities. Farm Bureau continues to advocate for additional measures to further expand access to H-2A workers at this time.
- Secured for livestock farms with NPDES permits regulatory and enforcement flexibility from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency so that farms making every effort to comply with environmental regulations are not penalized as a result of complications due to COVID-19-related disruptions. Click here to learn more.
- Successfully advocated for flexibility with USDA programs including crop insurance, FSA loans, disaster assistance and conservation programs to help farmers during this time. The changes include relaxing the FSA loan making process, extending some deadlines, allowing deferred payments and forbearance in some circumstances and adding flexibility to extend credit to farmers in need. Click here to learn more.
- Worked with PDA to clarify to local governments that farmers markets may remain open.
- Sought and received clarification from PDA on allowable equine activities at boarding operations. According to updated guidance from PDA on March 27, such facilities are also considered life-sustaining and may remain open for animal care. They are encouraged to follow PDA's on farm guidance for preventing spread of COVID-19. Livestock boarding facilities must make their own decisions as to whether to allow animal owners to visit. PDA cannot offer legal advice on this matter and encourages facility owners to discuss with their own legal counsel. If visitors are allowed, they should come during scheduled appointments and practice social distancing.
- Sought and achieved temporary waiver for drivers who had current credentials as of March 1 allowing FMCSA to exercise its enforcement discretion to not take action in certain cases when a commercial learners’ permit, CDL or Medical Certificate is expired. Click here to learn more.
- Sent policy recommendations to Congress and the Trump administration identifying critical issues that need to be addressed to help agricultural producers. Click here to for recommendations sent to Congress. Click here for recommendations sent to the administration.
What we’re doing:
- Asking the state to designate lawn and garden retail stores, and similar operations such as roadside floricultural stands, as “life sustaining” businesses.
- Advocating for farm eligibility for the Small Business Administration loan programs, specifically the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Programs. Click here to learn more.
- Seeking from the federal government financial relief and assistance for agricultural producers and agricultural businesses, which including relief from existing FSA loan payments, opportunities for no- or low-cost loans, reopening sign-up periods for key risk management programs, delaying or suspending filing of business returns and payment of business taxes during the pandemic, and availability of unsecured credit to businesses of all sizes.
- Advocating for, and amplifying Gov. Tom Wolf’s request to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, requesting additional emergency food assistance for Pennsylvania, to help better allow the charitable food system to meet the increased demands of Pennsylvanians who need assistance.
Small businesses and non-profits that are facing losses due to COVID-19 can apply for low-interest loans to help cover their continued operating costs. Loans of up to $2 million are available through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. Most production agriculture operations are not eligible for such loans but many related businesses are, such as restaurant and craft beverage businesses. Farm Bureau is advocating for more agricultural operations to be eligible. Click here to learn more and apply.
Eligible businesses, including farms, with 500 or fewer employees can apply for fully-forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans from the SBA to continue to pay employees and cover some overhead costs during the pandemic. Sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed people are also eligible. Loan payments will be deferred for six months and no collateral or personal guarantees are required. Farm Bureau is advocating to ensure there are not further restrictions on the program that would limit agricultural participation. Click here to learn more. Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis so it's critical that those who are interested begin the application process right away. Visit the link below to learn more. You can also contact the SBA field offices in Harrisburg at 717-782-3840, Philadelphia at 610-382-3062, and Pittsburgh at 412-395-6560.
- Click here for information from DCED on financial resources for affected businesses.
- Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers has several free webinars scheduled to help businesses apply for SBA Emergency Loans. Click here to see upcoming webinars.
- USDA Rural Development has created a resources page for customers affected by COVID-19. Click here to learn more.
- The state Office of Unemployment Compensation has important resources available for affected employers. Click here for more information.
- Click here for important stress and mental health resources for farmers.
- The Center for Dairy Excellence has resources available to help dairy producers and other farmers navigate the COVID-19 situation. Click here for more information. The center can also help producers develop contingency plans to ensure they can remain in operation if they are directly affected by COVID-19. Click here to learn more.
- Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is assessing what businesses are available to help people in need during this difficult time so they can match people in need with available resources. If your business is able to help, click here to take their survey.
The COVID-19 outbreak originated in central China in late 2019. It has since spread worldwide. There have been more than 780,000 cases globally and more than 37,500 deaths.
While many healthy adults who are infected by the virus have mild, if any, symptoms and are able to recover, the disease can be dangerous and even fatal, especially to older adults and people with existing health issues, such as hypertension, heart or lung disease and diabetes.
The following recommendations can help you protect yourself, your family and the public:
- Do not attend meetings of 10 attendees or more.
- Employ social distancing techniques such as limiting face-to-face interactions with people outside of your household as much as possible and avoiding large crowds.
- Continue good hygiene efforts, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available), then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay at home when you or a member of your household is feeling sick.
- Call your doctor or a medical provider if you have reason to believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing. Do not visit public areas. Most people affected by COVID-19 are able to recover at home. If you have an appointment to see your doctor, call ahead for instructions on how to protect the office and other patients. Do not visit public places. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and notify the operator that you have or think you might have COVID-19. Put on a facemask before help arrives if possible.
- Stay informed about the disease. Learn more on the CDC’s website by clicking here.