COVID-19 FAQs for California Ranchers

Will California’s agricultural sector face any restrictions for working or producing food during the COVID-19 pandemic?2020-03-25T16:53:14-07:00

CCA staff and leadership has been in constant contact with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the Governor’s office to ensure that all sectors of the livestock industry and beef production are considered “essential services,” ensuring that there will not be any restrictions or unnecessary hurdles in the way of providing beef to re-stock grocers’ meat cases.

CCA expects no restrictions upon the agricultural sector and food production. Should your operation confront any hurdles related to the COVID-19 outbreak, contact CCA staff immediately so that we can work with CDFA and the Governor’s office to immediately resolve any issues. 

What guidance has the California Department of Food and Agriculture provided?2020-03-25T17:29:51-07:00

CDFA issued guidance that “The food supply makes up critical infrastructure from farm to table and includes assets, systems, networks, and functions that provide vital services to the nation. It is essential that federal government-defined critical infrastructure and supply chains are protected, and that all elements pertaining to the food supply remain operational, including a workforce that is vital to production of the food supply.” The California State Public Health Officer has released a list of essential critical infrastructure workers confirming that “those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production” and other agricultural employees are exempt from the Governor’s stay-at-home order.

Where can I find a list of“ Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” in the food and agriculture sector?2020-04-06T15:30:57-07:00

In the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Food and Agriculture Sector-Specific Plan, the food and agriculture sector is divided into eight categories. The categories are all considered essential during an emergency such as the current COVID-19 crisis. The divided categories are as followed:

  1. Supply
  2. Processing, Packaging, and Production
  3. Agricultural and Food Product Storage
  4. Agricultural and Food Product Transportation
  5. Agricultural and Food Processing Product Distribution
  6. Agricultural and Food Supporting Facilities
  7. Regulatory, Oversight, and Industry Organizations
  8. Other Agriculture and Food

Additionally, the California State Public Health Officer has released a list of essential critical infrastructure workers confirming that “those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production” and other agricultural employees are exempt from the Governor’s stay-at-home order. Below is the full list taken from the Food and Agriculture Sector of the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” released by The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health

  • Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies, and other retail that sells food and beverage products, including but not limited to Grocery stores, Corner stores and convenience stores, including liquor stores that sell food, Farmers’ markets, Food banks, Farm and produce stands, Supermarkets,Similar food retail establishments, Big box stores that sell groceries and essentials
  • Restaurant carry-out and quick serve food operations – including food preparation, carry-out and delivery food employees
  • Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees—to include those employed in food processing (packers, meat processing, cheese plants, milk plants, produce, etc.) facilities; livestock, poultry, seafood slaughter facilities; pet and animal feed processing facilities; human food facilities producing by-products for animal food; beverage production facilities; and the production of food packaging
  • Farm workers to include those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production, packaging, and distribution; manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of veterinary drugs; truck delivery and transport; farm and fishery labor needed to produce our food supply domestically
  • Farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs
  • Employees and firms supporting food, feed, and beverage distribution (including curbside distribution and deliveries), including warehouse workers, vendor-managed inventory controllers, blockchain managers, distribution
  • Workers supporting the sanitation of all food manufacturing processes and operations from wholesale to retail
  • Company cafeterias – in-plant cafeterias used to feed employees
  • Workers in food testing labs in private industries and in institutions of higher education
  • Workers essential for assistance programs and government payments
  • Workers supporting cannabis retail and dietary supplement retail
  • Employees of companies engaged in the production of chemicals, medicines, vaccines, and other substances used by the food and agriculture industry, including pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, minerals, enrichments, and other agricultural production aids
  • Animal agriculture workers to include those employed in veterinary health; manufacturing an distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs, feed ingredients, feed, and bedding, etc.; transportation of live animals, animal medical materials; transportation of deceased animals for disposal; raising of animals for food; animal production operations; slaughter and packing plants and associated regulatory and government workforce
  • Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products
  • Employees engaged in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment and other infrastructure necessary to agricultural production and distribution
How can I stay healthy around my animals?2020-03-25T17:08:26-07:00

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a webpage of information regarding animals and COVID-19, including guidance on how to stay healthy around animals during this time.

“In the United States, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets, livestock, or wildlife, might be a source of COVID-19 infection at this time,” CDC addresses on the site. “However, because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals.”

For your health, CDC recommends the following guidelines:

  • Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
  • Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
  • Take pets to the veterinarian regularly and talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.

For further information on animals and COVID-19, visit the CDC’s “Animals and the Coronavirus Disease 2019” webpage. To visit the page, click here.

Will California livestock markets remain open for business during the pandemic?2020-03-25T20:59:08-07:00

CCA has been in close contact with the Livestock Marketing Association and has received assurances that California livestock markets will remain open for business during the COVID-19 crisis. To prevent the transmission of the virus, however, markets are making changes to the way they do business to ensure proper social distancing.

What temporary Hours of Service exemptions for livestock haulers have been provided by the Feds and Governor Newsom?2020-04-06T15:40:11-07:00

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued an Expanded Emergency Declaration exempting livestock haulers from compliance with the federal Hours of Service rules that limit drive time. The declaration provides an Hours of Service exemption for all haulers “providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks, including” food “for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores” and “immediate precursor raw materials” necessary for the production of such food and groceries. The Office of the Secretary of Transportation interprets all livestock hauling to fit this exemption.

Hours of Service rest requirements remain in effect under the declaration, meaning that once a driver returns to his or her “normal reporting location,” that individual must still receive a minimum of 10 hours of off-duty rest.

Governor Gavin Newsom responded to the exemption by issuing an Executive Order likewise exempting haulers engaged in intrastate or interstate transportation from California’s Hours of Service regulations.

While Governor Newsom’s order does not explicitly reference livestock (or “precursor raw materials”), the order makes clear that it is intended to be consistent with FMCSA’s order and apply to all hauling “in support of emergency relief efforts,” including “food for emergency restocking of stores.”

The FMCSA exemption is in effect until April 12 (or until the COVID-19 national emergency is terminated, if it is terminated prior to April 12). The California exemption is in effect as long as the FMCSA exemption remains effective.

Though not required, CCA recommends that livestock haulers operating under these exemptions print out the FMCSA Expanded Emergency Declaration, available here, and Governor Newsom’s Executive Order, available here, and keep these documents in their cab. Other questions about this FMCSA Emergency Declaration can be answered by an FAQ document, by clicking here.

As an employer, what should I know about the “Families First Coronavirus Relief Act” signed by the President on 3/18?2020-03-27T13:15:17-07:00

On March 18, the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act was signed into law by the President.

The Act “provides for supplemental appropriations related to the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as waivers and modifications of Federal nutrition programs, employment-related protections and benefits, health programs and insurance coverage requirements, and related tax credits during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” the White House explained in the bill announcement.

To help employees better under this new law, the U.S. Department of Labor has created a factsheet with information about employee rights—including paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave—under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. To learn more about your rights as an employee or how the provisions in the Act will impact your employers from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, read the factsheet here.

To answer any questions you may have about this law as an employer, The California Employment Law Report has also put together an article including all of the information you may need to know. If you have any additional questions about how this Act may impact your ranch or operation please click here.

What are CCA and NCBA doing to secure the beef supply chain and provide relief for ranchers?2020-03-27T17:11:38-07:00

CCA continues to work closely with NCBA to ensure that the federal government eliminates any obstacles in the food supply chain. On March 17, NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane wrote to Vice President Pence outlining administrative actions which would protect and streamline the nation’s beef supply chain.

In response to COVID-19’s impact on the cattle markets, NCBA CEO Colin Woodall wrote to the North American Meat Institute on March 18 asking NAMI’s members “to be aggressive in the cash market and base their bids on the increased cutout value we are seeing rather than the futures” to ensure market liquidity and transparency.

CCA has also been working with NCBA and our allies in the nation’s capital to ensure that all producer losses directly associated with COVID-19 are addressed by Congress. On March 19, NCBA sent a letter to Congressional leadership asking that Congress “provide for an increase in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit Corporation’s (USDA – CCC) borrowing authority from $30 to $50 billion, fully fund the replenishment of CCC, and ensure that livestock producers will be eligible for assistance in this time of need.”

CCA has been in contact with the offices of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and asked them to support the Phase III bill, particularly the extended borrowing authority for the CCC. Additionally, CCA sent a letter to California’s Congressional Delegation outlining CCA’s priorities for legislative relief from COVID-19.

The Phase III stimulus bill was signed by the President on the afternoon of March 27.

Can livestock be a source of the COVID-19 infection?2020-03-25T19:23:28-07:00

The CDC has addressed that, “In the United States, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets, livestock, or wildlife, might be a source of COVID-19 infection at this time.”

What changes have been made to the processing of H-2 Visas?2020-04-06T15:32:26-07:00

On March 26, the Department of the State and the Department of Homeland Security announced the authorization of “consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview.”

Following the announcement, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement:

“Temporarily waiving in-person interviews for H-2 visa applicants streamlines the application process and helps provide steady labor for the agriculture sector during this time of uncertainty,” said Secretary Perdue. “H-2 labor is vital to the economy and food security of America – our farmers and producers depend on these workers to continue to feed and clothe the world.”

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross thanked the federal government for these changes by releasing the following statement:

“I want to thank USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue for elevating the importance of streamlining the process for eligible H2A applicants who have worked in the United States before or who are already here.  Secretary Perdue understands the challenges that farmers across the country, and especially in California, face as the work continues to plant and harvest our crops.  I have such respect for all agricultural workers who are vital to a safe, secure food supply.”

Read the full announcement, here.
Learn more from the USDA on this announcement by clicking here.

Additionally, the Department of Labor has issued two extensive FAQs on H2-A visas. The first FAQ factsheet released 3/20 can be found here. The second FAQ factsheet released 4/1 can be found here.

Will packing plants continue to operate?2020-04-06T15:34:05-07:00

NCBA has created an extensive FAQ document, which includes the following answer regarding if packing plants are planning to close or reduce operations in light of the coronavirus:

Packing plants are working to ensure worker health and safety so that employees can continue to work, and plants can continue to operate.  They are working on contingency plans in the event employees become ill. USDA remains committed to keeping the food supply chain safely operating. Inspectors and graders will continue to be in plants doing their job. In the event of sick or exposed employees the USDA has contingency plans in place to keep inspections going.

Will meat inspections continue during this pandemic?2020-04-06T15:34:47-07:00

USDA ensures that quality grading and inspection services will continue. On the Frequently Asked Questions page of USDA’s coronavirus webpage, the Department ensures the following:

“USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) continues to provide critical inspections and grading services. AMS is ensuring the health and safety of USDA employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply from farms to forks. If needed, AMS is prepared to remedy any possible disruptions in services.”

To learn more about USDA’s plans to ensure food safety during the pandemic, click here.

If my ranch or operation faces losses during this time what should I do?2020-04-06T15:36:45-07:00

CCA encourages all producers to document all losses associated with the COVID-19 crisis.  Such information will be vital in ensuring that producers are compensated for losses associated with the pandemic.

Will the food supply chain be impacted by the closing of borders?2020-04-06T15:38:50-07:00

While some international borders have been closed (e.g. Canada/US, US/Mexico) and some states have acted to limit travel in-and-out of those states, essential services such as agricultural products are exempt and thus permitted to travel despite such restrictions

What other action has been taken to improve the food industry’s capacity to deliver products during this emergency?2020-04-06T15:41:51-07:00

A letter signed by dozens of agricultural associations and coalitions including NCBA, was sent to Governors and state officials asking states “to increase truck weights on all U.S. highways and Federal Interstate Highways in your state to a minimum of 88,000 pounds—while respecting bridge and posted seasonal or special road and/or local limitations.”

The letter states that “Establishing a minimum of 88,000 pounds ensures that a minimum harmonized weight exists across the country and further ensures that essential shipments adhering to this common increase will not be impeded at state lines.”

While many states have acted and increased truck weights, California has yet to do so. CCA will keep you informed of any related updates.

What temporary guidance exists for veterinarians working with producers at this time?2020-04-06T15:42:33-07:00

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in a release on March 24 that “it intends to temporarily not enforce certain requirements in order to allow veterinarians to better utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the pandemic.”

To help answer questions on the temporary guidance for veterinarians and producers, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, National Milk Producers Federation and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association have created a factsheet. To access it, click here.

Have more questions about COVID-19 and the beef industry? Click here to read NCBA’s “Frequently Asked Questions and Resources” document.


Call (916) 444-0845 or
email CCA staff.


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