Food producers have been overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been working tirelessly to keep our grocery stores stocked. Sanderson Farms Inc. just reported the first positive case at a major U.S meat producer. Seven employees from the Sanderson Farms plant in Mississippi were sent home to quarantine, but the plant remains operating at full capacity. Food producers are often at high risk for this virus as employees often work in close proximity of one another picking fruits or cutting and packaging meats, it is likely that we continue to see more and more reported cases. It is also important to note that COVID-19 is not a food born virus.
If the cases continue to grow, producers will have to start making the difficult decisions to either close for cleaning and worker quarantines, or not harvest certain crops if there are not enough workers. It is vital that these plants stay open, one Cargill beef processing plant feeds 22 million people per day. The large surge in demand has made it very difficult to balance a safe work environment with matching production needs. Some businesses are already preparing for the worst, and stepping up their hiring practices to prepare for large amounts of employees being unable to work. There is growing number people in the U.S. right now that have been laid off and are looking for opportunities. The attractiveness of the industry is low, it is extremely hard, manual labor is a difficult obstacle to overcome for many hiring companies.
In Vermont, where dairy farmers are fearful of losing their farms if they fall ill, there has been an outpour of support and many people have gone on standby to take over if needed. Everyone is doing their best at the moment to try and flatten the curve while also keeping up with the country’s needs.