Florida farmworkers and suppliers who have been deemed essential are getting permission slips so they can keep showing up for work, U.S. Sugar announced in a news release.
The Clewiston-based company said its agricultural output — which includes fruit and vegetables, in addition to sugar — has been judged as essential to the nation’s food supply and national security, and keeping store shelves stocked with fresh produce requires employees to continue coming to work.
“Our farmers, workers and other essential food production vendors will continue working around the clock to keep safe, locally grown food on America’s grocery store shelves and American families’ tables,” said Judy Sanchez, U.S. Sugar’s Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs.
The call on who is essential was handed down by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which considers farming and processing as “critical infrastructure” to continue the American food supply chain. But as more Florida counties, and in some areas the Governor, issue stay-at-home orders, employees might have trouble getting to work.
U.S. Sugar said employees — “employees, our farmers, contractors, suppliers, drivers and business partners” — deemed essential will carry letters explaining designation in order to avoid problems with the state and local law enforcement officers charged with enforcing local stay-at-home orders.
The company also said the independent railroad it operates, the South Central Florida Express, will keep chugging as it is integral to the supply chain.
“These essential services also follow all directives by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Centers for Disease Control and the federal government to keep our workers and our food supply as safe as possible during this pandemic,” U.S. Sugar said in a news release.
“What’s even more important is that these measures enable all of our people to continue working and earning a paycheck at a time when many other workers have been furloughed or laid off as a result of COVID-19.”