COVID-19 and the Pecan Industry
During this difficult time as we battle COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, the pecan industry—now more than ever—needs a source for reliable information. Since its creation 53 years ago, Pecan South has aimed to be that source. We reassure you that, throughout this disruption, Pecan South remains here to provide you with news and educational materials to help meet your needs and to answer your questions.
Our staff is following safety guidelines and taking the highest levels of precaution we can. Working with our distributor, we’ve ensured we can continue to mail out each issue directly to you.
On this page, you can find information regarding canceled or postponed industry events, as well as other resources regarding ag labor, government action, and other topics impacted by the outbreak. Our website also provides subscribers with digital versions of past and current editions of the magazine, as well as other online articles and content. You can also find updates on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Lastly, we’d like to salute all our pecan growers, shellers, handlers, and workers. People are stocking up and bunkering down as they fear the worst, and while the world has entered a chaotic new existence, you all keep working. You all keep providing the rest of us with a delicious and nutritious tree nut—pecans. So, thank you. Thank you for remaining calm and working hard. And thank you for being a beacon of hope that normalcy is just around the corner.
Take care, The Pecan South Staff
OPGA 2020 Conference – Canceled
Annual Georgia Pecan Growers Association Conference – Postponed
Pecan Congress – Postponed
LPGA 2020 Tri State Pecanference – Canceled
World Nut and Dried Fruit Congress – Postponed
If you have any updates regarding your own industry event, please let us know and we will add it to this page.
Loans for Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19
As part of the $2 trillion stimulus package, Congress appropriated on March 27 $350 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses for monthly expenses like payroll, rent, and utility payments. This popular program receieved another flush of funds on April 23, after the House gave final approval to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program with an additional $310 billion and the EIDL program with $60 billion. The Small Business Association through the CARES Act was also authorized to distribute grants, tax credits, local support, and other resources to small businesses across the country. Full resource options can be found here.
When applying for the Paycheck Protection Program, the Department of the Treasury provides this document to borrowers and lenders that aligns with SBA's interpretation of the CARES Act and the PPP Interim Final Rule. According to this document, "The U.S. government will not challenge lender PPP actions that conform to this guidance, and to the PPP Interim Final Rule and any subsequent rulemaking in effect at the time." All those interested in applying for PPP should review this guidance.
Entrepreneur.com provides answers to some common questions for small-business owners applying for the Paycheck Protection Program, including how to calculate the loan amount on their application and how to work with their bank.
Through this fourth relief package, agricultural enterprises with fewer than 500 employees are now also eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) advance of up to $10,000. The advance is designed to provide economic relief to businesses experiencing a temporary loss of revenue, and does not have to be repaid. After submitting a successful application, businesses can expect the funds within three days. To apply for EIDL advance, click here.
FDA Guidance for Industry Regarding Preventive Controls
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture expanded the initial guidance regarding food safety to include answers to questions, such as: what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, how to maintain social distancing in food production or processing facilities, and should employees in retail food and food production settings wear face coverings. Read over the FDA's guidance and receive answers here.
At this time, the FDA emphasizes that COVID-19 does not pose a food safety risk, and states that "there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19." Furthermore, the FDA says no widespread disruptions to the food supply chain have been reported; the department is closely monitoring the food supply chain for any shortages or changes.
To read over the FDA's answers on food safety and COVID-19 visit this page.
Additionally, the FDA released guidance for a temporary policy regarding nutrition labeling of certain packaged food. This temporary policy will provide restaurants and food manufacturers flexibility during the pandemic.
Food Industry Positive Test Protocol
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a standard Positive Test Protocol for people in the food industry. This protocol should be initiated if one of your employees or customers tests positive for COVID-19.
Additionally, the CDC has released guidance on safety practices for critical infrastructure workers who may have had exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. That guidance defines "potential exposure" and provides steps essential employees and employers should take. These steps include wearing a face mask, maintaining social distance recommendations of 6 feet, and disinfecting work spaces.
USDA NASS Asks Farmers to Complete Surveys Online
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has suspended in-person data collection until at least April 3 and asks farmers and ranchers to complete their surveys online. USDA NASS says “statistical reports remain on schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To respond online at agcounts.usda.gov, producers will need their unique 17-digit survey code from the questionnaire or letter received in the mail. Both the online questionnaire and phone data collection interviews are secure. All information submitted to NASS is confidential, only used for statistical purposes, and published in aggregate form, as required by federal law so that no individual or farm information can be identified. More information on how NASS protects your information. For assistance with the online or paper questionnaire, or to submit information by phone, call toll-free 866-294-8560.
Helpful hints for completing your online survey can be found here.
Updates on Agriculture and Ag Labor
The U.S. DHS Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency has included food and agriculture in its Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce recommendations. See the full recommendations here. Agricultural workers, food production, and food distribution are identified as "workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability." The Coronavirus Guidance for America states that these workers have a special responsibility to maintain their normal work schedule.
Companies with Work Essential related travel can provide their employees with letters that cite the federal government's definition of Essential Employees. Draft letter from the Texas International Produce Association for Essential Employees.
Consular Offices Process H-2 Visas
All U.S. Embassies and Consulates suspended routine visa services as of March 20, 2020. The State Department clarified that the embassies and consulates will continue providing emergency and mission critical visa services as resources allow. The H-2 program is considered a priority to the United States' food and national security.
In an announcement regarding H-2 visas, the U.S. State Department wrote that "we intend to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions."
At the direction of Secretary Pompeo, consular offices can now expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants to those that can be completed without an in-person interview. Additionally, consular officers can waive interview requirements for first-time and returning H-2 visas "who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility." The State Department further added that it believes the majority of qualified applicants will be settled on without an interview.
"Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during this worldwide pandemic," the State Department said in its March 26th announcement. "We encourage applicants to consult with the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate in order to confirm the level of services currently offered.
Pecan growers and industry members stay in touch with their Senate and Congressional representatives.
NPSA Communicates Member Challenges with USDA
According to the National Pecan Shellers Association, the USDA reached out to NPSA and requested information regarding members' current challenges amidst the crisis. The NPSA communicated challenges with employee availability and shortage of sanitation products for equipment and employees in the plant.
NPSA Executive Director Jon Krueger says, "If you’re experiencing business challenges tied to the coronavirus outbreak, and/or want to share solutions, please email me email@example.com or call me at 770-596-8681. We will share your feedback with USDA and collect here at Headquarters to get a sense for prevalence and serve as a clearinghouse for solutions."
Stakeholders can also contact the USDA directly through the following emails:
Online Tools & Guides
The Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association resources with FDA memos, CDC resources, and webinars.
Finimpact created a Small Business Survival Guide to Combat COVID-19 for small business owners that includes information about SBA relief programs, business interruption insurance, and other forms of relief.
Activities for Home
As schools continue to close in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many parents are struggling to maintain normalcy at home and to ensure their kids don’t fall behind in their studies.
NJ Advance Media rounded up the best free resources and videos for your kids during school closures and stay at home orders. Their list includes live streams from aquariums, free ABC Mouse, Scholastic, and printables.
4-H has a number of resources available online to help you keep your kids engaged and learning during this time. Check out their blog post about their tips for keeping your kids engaged during this “impromptu time off.
If you’d like to share any tips or activities you’re doing with your family during this time, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.