RALEIGH – Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sent letters and reached out to law enforcement agencies and county offices across North Carolina this week requesting their cooperation in helping keep North Carolina’s essential farms, greenhouses, livestock and the industries that support agriculture moving amid shelter-in-place or lock-down orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Agriculture is our state’s No. 1 industry, and the public and the counties that have already issued restrictions recognize the importance of the food distribution systems and farmers to our supply of food,” said Troxler. “The spring planting season is a critical time for farmers in our state and for them to continue to feed and clothe us they must be able to do their job. It is essential that they be able to continue to move even amid the various travel restrictions that may be implemented.”
This request is consistent with the Department of Homeland Security’s identification of the production and supply of food and agriculture as one of the 16 critical infrastructure areas providing vital service to the state.
“We have worked with our state’s agricultural commodity groups and associations that are part of this critical infrastructure to identify appropriate individuals that need this designation and have issued Notices of essential food and agricultural employee letters that show that they are performing essential job functions in the area of food and agriculture,” Troxler said. “We have reviewed the existing county-wide stay-at-home orders, and I want to personally thank those counties for exempting agricultural workers.”
The Department of Homeland Security defines food and agriculture workers as: workers supporting groceries and farmers markets, food manufacturing employees, farm workers, support services such as fuel, ethanol, feed and pesticides, food testing labs, animal agriculture workers, veterinary health, forestry workers and farm equipment maintenance and manufacturing. Because of their vitalness to North Carolina agriculture, work authorization letters have also been provided to green industry operations such as nurseries, garden centers and landscape companies as well as to caretakers and workers that support the equine industry.
A copy of the law enforcement letter can be found online at www.ncagr.gov and select COVID-19 Resources.