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                COVID-19

                Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASTA staff are currently working remotely. Phones are forwarded and you can reach us at 703-837-8140, by calling individual extensions, or by email. We are closely monitoring the situation, especially impacts on the seed industry both domestically and globally. This page will continue to be updated as the situation develops.?If your company is facing challenges with seed movement or other issues due to COVID-19, please report them to ASTA by emailing info@betterseed.org.

                ASTA Members: Click here for additional members only resources. If you have trouble logging in, email Ellen Zimmerman at ezimmerman@betterseed.org.

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                Recommended Protocols for Employers and Employees

                Labor (contact: Jane DeMarchi at jdemarchi@betterseed.org)

                • AgCareers.com offers free job listings for temporary workers within the agriculture and food industry.
                • New Regulations
                • ?H-2A (Icontact: Jane DeMarchi at jdemarchi@betterseedorg)
                  • (June 11)?The U.S. Department of Labor issued a fourth Question & Answer document.
                  • (April 15)?The Department of Homeland Security announced a temporary final rule to change certain H-2A requirements to help U.S. agricultural employers avoid disruptions in lawful agricultural-related employment. The temporary rule would allow H-2A employers who are concerned their workers will be unable to enter the country due to travel restrictions to employ H-2A workers already in the United States. U.S. Customs and Immigration is also temporarily amending its regulations to allow H-2A workers to stay in country longer than the permitted three years under the program.
                  • (April 1)?The U.S. Department of Labor issued a second Question & Answer document to address potential issues regarding the H-2A temporary agricultural labor certification program during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find that document here.
                  • (March 26) The State Department announced expanded interview waiver eligibility to ensure that the majority of H-2 processing can continue. Consulates can waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no potential ineligibility, and the expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver. Please refer to this Q&A document from the State Department for additional details.
                  • (March 19) The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Labor announced a partnership to facilitate the identification of nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B certified positions that have expiring contracts in the coming weeks. Some of these workers may be eligible to transfer to other U.S. agricultural sector employers during this time to fill in the workforce gaps during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers should visit https://www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a to access that workforce information. All existing statutory and regulatory requirements for employers continue to apply.
                  • Employers should continue to monitor the State Department’s COVID-19 information page for country-specific information.

                Mental Health Resources

                Essential Critical Infrastructure?(contact: Jane DeMarchi at jdemarchi@betterseed.org)

                • (April 17)?The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) released version 3.0 of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers guidance. The guidance adds the following group to the list of essential critical infrastructure workers:
                  • Workers supporting the growth and distribution of plants and associated products for home gardens.
                  • The document also includes guidance on safety for critical infrastructure workers from the CDC.
                • (March 29) ASTA Memo to Members on COVID-19
                • (March 28)?The Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released updated guidance on critical infrastructure workers. In this guidance, seed is included in the critical infrastructure.
                  • “Employees of companies engaged in the production, storage, transport, and distribution of chemicals, medicines, vaccines, and other substances used by the food and agriculture industry, including seeds, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, minerals, enrichments, and other agricultural production aids.”
                  • The purpose of the guidance is “to help State and local officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. The list can also inform critical infrastructure community decision-making to determine the sectors, sub-sectors, segments, or critical functions that should continue normal operations, appropriately modified to account for Centers for Disease Control (CDC) workforce and customer protection guidance.” Companies and employees may use the memo and guidance in their communication with state and local authorities.
                  • (March 19)?The previous guidance, released on March 19, listed seed as an agricultural input.

                Transportation (contact: Jane DeMarchi at jdemarchi@betterseed.org)

                • (May 8)?With the support of the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has created a website for truckers and other commercial drivers in the U.S. to understand restrictions that they might encounter as they travel across the country. Learn more at cra.inl.gov.
                • (April 13) The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published an expanded set of FAQs regarding actions State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLA) or commercial driver’s license holders may take during the public health crisis.
                • (March 24)?The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a temporary waiver for some commercial vehicle drivers to address disruptions in licensing and other requirements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will allow FMCSA to exercise its enforcement discretion in certain cases when a commercial learners’ permit, CDL or Medical Certificate is expired. The Notice of Enforcement policy can be found here, and the waiver can be found here. The waiver will expire on June 30, 2020.

                International (contact Abigail Struxness at astruxness@betterseed.org)

                Trade

                • Air Freight: (March 18) – According to air cargo analyst WorldACD, over 60 percent of the air cargo that flows between the U.S. and Europe is transported in the bellies of passenger jets – which airlines have already started to ground. That could lead to delays and higher prices to ship goods. Global couriers such as FedEx and DHL continue to move cargo globally, with some service delays or restrictions in regions experiencing COVID-19 spread.
                • Ocean Shipping and Ports: (April 28)?The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has finalized new guidance on how it will assess whether ocean carriers’ and marine terminal operators’ demurrage and detention practices are reasonable. The FMC recommends that carriers/terminals should not charge detention or demurrage when it is not possible for the shipper or trucker to pick up or return a container within the “free time.” For examples, when a terminal is shut, no appointments are available, the terminal or carrier won’t take empty containers, or the container is held for government inspection, etc. Click here to view the FMC announcement.
                • Transmission via cargo unlikely: From the Center for Disease Control: “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often be respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associate with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.”?(March 13)
                • For travel information, visit the State Department COVID webpage.

                U.S. – Canada – Mexico Border Information

                International Seed Movement

                Phytosanitary (contact Ric Dunkle at rdunkle@betterseed.org)

                Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS):

                • APHIS and AMS continue to provide critical inspections and grading services.
                • APHIS and AMS are 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 moving from farms to forks.
                • APHIS and AMS are prepared to remedy any possible disruptions in their services.
                • AMS will continue to report commodity prices through its market news service.
                • Commodity markets can be assured that the USDA will keep America’s food supply safe as well as abundant during this national emergency.
                • (March 26)?APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine Provides and Update on Import and Export Activities for Plants and Plant Products
                • (March 20)?APHIS Statement on COVID-19

                NSHS Labs

                ASTA Member’s Only Resources

                Federal Government Resources

                Industry/Partner Resources

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