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Agriculture deemed essential in emergency

The Trump Administration has made it clear that the food and agriculture is a critical infrastructure industry in the wake of the coronavirus national emergency, a move that encourages state and local authorities to allow farms and the entire food-supply chain to continue operating as usual amid current and potential restrictions created to stem the spread of the virus.

“This declaration allows farmers to do what they do best — feed U.S. consumers — in a time of acute need and anxiety,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation. “Agriculture is working around the clock to ensure timely delivery of safe, abundant food. That’s what farmers always do — but in a time of unprecedented public-health concern, a fully functioning food system is even more critical to national health and well-being.”

The administration’s designation of “essential critical infrastructure workforce” was announced today by the Department of Homeland Security. NMPF senior vice president of regulatory and environmental affairs, Clay Detlefsen, is the private-sector chair of the Food and Agricultural Sector Coordinating Council, an industry-government collaboration set up after the Sept. 2001 terror attacks to share information between government agencies and private businesses.

The Homeland Security declaration reflects how effectively industry is working with government and how much that relationship has progressed in this crisis, Detlefsen said.

“We’re witnessing incredible collaboration among the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies and all sectors of the food industry. That’s been crucial to keeping supply chains running during these crucial days for public health and confidence. These key partnerships are firing on all cylinders,” Detlefsen said. “Agriculture’s appropriate designation as a critical industry should bring relief to farm families who want to help their country as well as to consumers who now know the world’s greatest agricultural producers can meet their needs unimpeded.”

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