While few Iowa farmers are able to do any spring planting yet in many areas, one expert says now is the ideal time to plan for the season ahead, taking coronavirus into account.
Ellen Duysen, the community outreach specialist with the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, says if farmers haven’t made any shifts in their emergency plans due to COVID-19, they really should consider doing so.
“Now is the time to start talking to people, writing a plan down,” Duysen says, “so in case of the worst-case scenario, you will to be able to get those crops either in the field or harvested, that your livestock will be taken care of, and you’ll be able to get all of this taken care of — even if you or some of your critical staff are out.”
It may be uncomfortable, but Duysen says we have to make contingency plans for ourselves, our families and our farmhands, in case someone is unable to do the job they’re expected to do. Like everyone else, farmers who will be working around others need to maintain the six-foot social distance and wear a respirator, or at least a cloth mask.
“Those fabric masks are great but they are to protect other people, not necessarily you,” Duysen says. “When you take that mask off, make sure you treat that like it is contaminated. Put it away from other items. If you’re going to reuse it, make sure that you sanitize and disinfect your hands in between taking it off and putting it on.”
Handwashing is always an important part of food safety, but Duysen says it’s especially vital now to have good hand hygiene.
“Right now, it’s going to protect our health,” Duysen says. “So every time you’ve been in contact with something or someone, make sure that your hands get washed. Either by soap and water, which is the preference or if you have a disinfectant to do that.”
The Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health is based at the UNMC College of Public Health in Omaha.