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.

ASTA is aware of additional restrictions that are being introduced at the city and state levels and the association is working multiple avenues, including USDA and the White House, to ensure that seed sales and movement will continue as close to normal as possible. Please let us know about any impacts your company is experiencing by contacting: Ellen Zimmerman at ezimmerman@betterseed.org.

Federal

  • Federal Loan Programs
  • Essential Critical Infrastructure (contact: Jane DeMarchi at jdemarchi@betterseed.org)
    • (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.
  • Labor
    • New Regulations
    • H-2A (contact: Virginia Houston at vhouston@betterseedorg)
      • (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.
  • Transportation (contact: Virginia Houston at vhouston@betterseed.org)
    • (March 26) FMCSA Emergency Declaration: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an emergency declaration which provides hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency supplies to deal with COVID-19 – the full declaration can be found here.
    • Agriculture does not currently fall under this emergency declaration. There is a standing Hours of Service (HOS) ag exemption in place that covers a 150-air mile radius during a state’s designated planting and harvesting season. For most states, the seasons are from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 but there are about 14 or so states where it is not year-round. FMCSA is considering a separate exemption for agriculture or expanding the current declaration to include agriculture.
    • (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.
    • FMCSA is also aware of the concerns that there may be a shortage of truckers, and they are “exploring working within their regulatory authority to see what they can do to make sure the capacity of our nations drivers remains high.”

State (contact Pat Miller at pmiller@betterseed.org or your state seed association)

State Specific Updates

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

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

We are disappointed to announce the cancellation of this June’s ASTA Policy & Leadership Development Conference, which was to be held in conjunction with AOSA/SCST’s Annual Meeting this June in Indianapolis. Both host organizations were looking forward to bringing together the seed industry and the seed testing community for this valuable opportunity for education and connection. The health and safety of our membership is our highest priority, however, and in light of the current coronavirus global pandemic, we did not want to put our attendees at risk. We will continue to communicate the important issues we are facing at this time to keep you updated on the latest issues and opportunities facing the seed indsutry. ASTA has been actively tracking information related to COVID-19 on a new informational site and weekly calls are being held with our membership to keep you apprised of the impacts that are specific to our business. If you would like to take part in our calls, contact info@betterseed.org.

If you were already registered for the conference and have questions related to your registrant, contact Jennifer Crouse at jcrouse@betterseed.org.

ASTA Member’s Only Resources

Federal Government Resources

Industry/Partner Resources