Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Covid-19 is about to reach US farms in a major test for food supply chains

A farmer harvests cauliflowers.

By Chase Purdy

One of the largest farmworker unions in the US says early polling of its members suggests operators of some of the nation’s largest fresh produce farms aren’t taking steps to protect fieldworkers from the spread of Covid-19. That’s worrying news for a food supply chain that experts, so far, have described as robust and resilient in the face of the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

The nature of how the coronavirus spreads—from person to person, through droplets from coughs or sneezes, and transferred on surfaces—means that outbreaks have concentrated first in densely-populated urban and suburban zones. But it will reach rural farming areas on a delay (pdf), according to data collected (and visualized over time) by the University of Iowa’s Rural Policy Research Institute.

That means any farmers who have not been proactive about protecting their workers may have already unwittingly invited the virus into the food supply chain.  Read more >>