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March 31, 2020

Monterey County issues guidelines for farmworkers during COVID-19 outbreak

MONTEREY COUNTY—The Monterey County Agriculture Commissioner’s Office, Supervisors Luis Alejo and Chris Lopez, along with Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, Monterey County Farm Bureau, Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, Coastal Growers Association and California Strawberry Commission recently released a model Advisory for Agriculture Worker Protection During COVID-19 crisis.

The advisory aims to better protect agriculture and cannabis workers in Monterey County during the pandemic. Monterey County was the first county in the state to do so.

On March 17 Monterey County issued a shelter-in-place order, and the following night California issued a stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus crisis. Agriculture is included under the “essential businesses” exemptions on both orders. Local elected and agriculture leaders went to work to devise enhanced worker safety measures, aiming to ensure employee health and safety. 

The Monterey County Agriculture Worker Protection Advisory Protocols are voluntary, but all associations are supporting and encouraging their members to implement them at their worksites expeditiously. 

The agricultural industry is enhancing its existing food safety guidelines to decrease the spread of acute respiratory illness and lower the impact of COVID-19 in their workplace. Through this advisory, they are identifying and communicating objectives, which include: 

• Preventing and reducing transmission among staff

• Protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications 

• Maintaining business operations

• Minimizing adverse effects on other entities in their supply chains

Protection guidelines from the CDC and public health departments are changing rapidly. The agriculture community has declared it will be responsive to these changes and modify this Advisory as necessary. Further, the Advisory is not only for farmworkers but for all of the individuals involved in agriculture’s supply chain. 

“We knew that we needed to do more to protect our farmworkers as they are valued and do such critical work to ensure a stable food supply during this crisis,” Alejo said. “With these greater measures that are supported by our Agriculture and cannabis industries, we are leading and showing that we are doing all we can to better ensure their health and safety. This advisory can be a model for the rest of the state to do the same.”

Chris Valadez, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, said the advisory demonstrates that the health and safety of their employees remains their priority. 

“Farm employees continue to work diligently during this uncertain time to grow and harvest the fruits and vegetables shipped to consumers throughout the U.S.,” Valadez said. “It is incumbent on all of us to ensure farm employees are protected and can continue to work safely in our fields and facilities.”

To view The Monterey County Agriculture Worker Protection Advisory Protocols visit co.monterey.ca.us.

Johanna Miller
Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study English and Media. She covers the arts, business and agriculture.

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