Can farms reap the fall harvest safely? Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried issued a series of videos offering guidance on collecting crops in the time of coronavirus.
“Florida’s farmworkers feed our families and communities, but face an elevated risk of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, and often lack access to health resources. It’s critical that our farmworkers have the guidance, training, and support to be protected against COVID-19 while doing these tough jobs,” Fried said.
A nine-part series of videos can be streamed in English or in Spanish, and written guidelines can also be viewed and downloaded at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website. Guidelines include recommendations on proper mask usage, the importance of frequent handwashing with soap and regulations on safe transportation that adheres to social distancing guidelines for workers who don’t share a household.
The videos were put together with help from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“FDACS is proud to partner with UF/IFAS to produce these safety videos to help farmworkers, essential members of our communities, stay healthy throughout this pandemic,” Fried said.
Officials from the agriculture extension said it’s important safe practices be put in place both to contain the virus and continue industry activity.
“Preventing and reducing the spread of COVID-19 among farmworkers is critically important for Florida’s food supply and agriculture industry,” said Dr. Saqib Mukhtar, associate dean at UF/IFAS Extension.
“During times of economic downturn when tourism suffers, agriculture becomes our state’s main economic driver. To keep that engine running, we have to make sure Florida agricultural producers and farmworkers are trained on the issue, using scientifically proven methods, which we’ve highlighted in this video series.”
The effort also comes after communities with heavy populations of migrant farmworkers, like Immokalee, suffered massive outbreaks.
Worker advocates heralded the safety tips ahead of harvest.
“The ability of farmworkers to social distance, sanitize when needed, and take other preventive actions to protect themselves from COVID-19 is essential as they work to feed America’s families during this pandemic,” said Oscar Londoño, executive director of WeCount!, a Homestead-based immigrant workers’ center.
“We appreciate Commissioner Fried, the Florida Department of Agriculture, and UF/IFAS prioritizing these needs and developing these videos to help protect the health and well-being of farmworkers.”