COVID-19 pandemic is putting a lot of strain on our country, as well as
shifting society as we know it. Many of us are adjusting to “social distancing,”
businesses are struggling to adapt and our daily lives are changing in ways
we have not seen in a hundred years. To make it through this crisis, vital
services become that much more important as people need access to water,
medical services and other crucial infrastructure. This includes our food
system and the industries that support them as many have rushed to stock up
on supplies. The urgency for food makes sense, because without a safe,
reliable system, our society could see some real hardships overnight.
Luckily, federal, state and local entities are working together to ensure
this does not happen.
Grocery stores are
working diligently to keep shelves stocked, as well as adjusting hours to
better meet the demands of consumers. Many are even dedicating periods of
time strictly for senior citizens. The change is due to the overnight surge
in demand as many of us made sure we had the proper amount of food for
several weeks. This quick reaction by the general public has put an immense
strain on our grocers. Fortunately, many of these businesses are tackling
these problems head-on by mitigating the spread of the virus as well as
serving the most vulnerable. What we the average citizens to do is simple;
shop normally and stop hoarding crucial items.
At the state
level, we must work with federal and local partners to ensure that farm and
food manufacturing workers remain part of the crucial infrastructure needs.
Animals and people alike need to be able to freely travel and work to keep
the food supply flowing. Livestock and farmers’ markets need to continue to
operate. At the same time, we need to do as much as possible to protect
these entities from the spread of viruses, as well keep in check regular
safety measures. At the federal level, they have already granted a
temporary hours of service exemption for agriculture product haulers which
will allow truckers to work overtime on delivering necessary food. These
people are going to be overworked, exhausted but unable to quit. We need to
do everything in our power to support them in their crucial duties.
purchasing of food at grocers, the closure of dine-in for restaurants and
haulers working overtime, we as a society must look at all food options; do
not forget about your local farmer. This is a crucial time for these
businesses. Many are just starting to plan for the growing season. If they
know there is an increase demand, they can plan accordingly and step up
during this crisis. Buying directly from the farmer will help those who
have lost orders with the closure of restaurants and now face a potential
surplus of product. Your support of these businesses is crucial to them, as
well as the food system.
I am proud of how
our food industries have responded during this crisis. They are working day
and night to make sure food can get to the consumer, while maintaining a
safe food supply. Keeping nutrition at a premium is how we beat this
pandemic and we should show our gratitude is by supporting them in any way
possible. Remember, don’t panic, plan accordingly and shop local as much as
possible. We can get through this, but it will take all of us plowing the
row. As the Commissioner of Agriculture, I am advocating that all
livestock, farmers’ markets and other agriculture-based remain in
operation. I hope you join me in supporting them.
Kent A. Leonhardt
Commissioner of Agriculture