NC Commissioner Steve Troxler: NCDA&CS, COVID-19, and Agriculture
Two weeks ago we were talking above COVID-19 and what NCDA&CS was doing in anticipation and preparation. What a difference two weeks has made. There have been almost daily changes and updates and we have been busy working to keep agriculture and agribusiness producing. We continue to provide agricultural updates at www.ncagr.gov, including press releases, copies of the Governor’s executive orders, resources we have developed to help keep markets open for farmers and others.
- I have never seen anything in my lifetime dominate the news, disrupt lives and cause as much anxiety as COVID-19 has.
- I know it is scary times, but I have faith we will get through this.
- Every sector of agriculture and agribusiness is concerned. The farming community knows that the “show must go on” to borrow the showbusiness expression.
- We don’t eat without agriculture, agribusiness and all the allied and support industries that process, transport and market food here and around the world.
- Panic buying quickly moved on from toilet paper and hand sanitizer to meats, potatoes, vegetables and rice when shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders were being discussed and restaurant service was halted.
- Store shelves were bare, waiting for the food distribution systems to catch up. Farmers markets and roadside stands have worked hard to stay open, keep distance between people and continue to be a source of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats for consumers. I thank them for being there for consumers.
- We have been working closely with our agricultural commodity groups and associations, and state and federal partners to ensure that agricultural workers can continue to work.
- The Department of Homeland Security issued a release that included food and agriculture as one of the 16 critical infrastructure areas that are critical to national security.
- I couldn’t agree more, and we are doing everything we can to make sure the broad agriculture industry is considered as decisions are made to protect public health in the days and months ahead.
- I am proud of our agriculture industry and community. I see examples every day of how they selflessly work to provide for others and how adaptive this industry is – every sector.
- And, I am proud of the way the department is stepping up in this crisis to help solve problems. Our Food Distribution trucks have delivered nearly 150 tractor trailers of USDA commodities that are being turned into bagged meals that can be picked up at schools and other feeding sites. This is meeting a tremendous community need.
- Our farmers markets are adapting to social distancing rules by adding additional spaces around each vendor, stopping sampling of products, having hand sanitizer on site and encouraging proper handwashing.
- Our Agronomic Services nematode lab continues to process samples to allow for the movement and sales of sweet potatoes.
- Our Marketing Division is gathering data from farmers who have lost their markets because of COVID-19 to put together a weekly list of available commodities for grocery stores. We hope to help make new connections for farmers and help even out the supply chain.
- We are continuing to post updates on our department homepage at ncagr.gov. There are a lot more resources on the site now, including food safety information from N.C. State University, links to CDC guidance about food, state Health and Human Services guidance on workers, and more. I would encourage you to check back often if you have questions or if you are looking for ag specific information.
- That is just a few things that I will mention. I expect we may be talking about this situation again next week.
- In the meantime, wash your hands, keep your distance (6 feet) from others, stay safe and keep agriculture growing and providing.