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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.
- Federal Loan Programs
- (April 2) IRS Employee Retention Credit information
- (April 1) U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist
- (April 1) U.S. Department of the Treasury
- Small Business Paycheck Protection Program fact sheet
- (April 1) U.S. Small Business Administration loan resources
- Essential Critical Infrastructure (contact: Jane DeMarchi at firstname.lastname@example.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.
- 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.
- Recommended protocols for employers and employees
- (April 10) AgSafe Agricultural Worker Safe Work Practices_English & Spanish
- (April 10) AgSafe COVID-19 Checklist for Agricultural Operations (English)
- (April 10) AgSafe COVID-19 Checklist for Agricultural Operations (Spanish)
- (April 10) AgSafe Sample Injury & Illness Prevention Program Addendum
- (April 2) Food Industry Recommended Protocols When Employee/Customer Tests Positive for COVID-19
- (March 31) Emergency Prevention Measures to Achieve Physical (Social) Distancing in Food Manufacturing Facilities as Related to COVID-19
- CDC – Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers
- CDC – Interim Guide for Businesses and Employers Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019
- (March 21) Updated to include additional guidance on cleaning and disinfection and social distancing.
- Transportation (contact: Virginia Houston at email@example.com)
- (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 firstname.lastname@example.org or your state seed association)
- State legislative activity related to the virus can be found here.
- National Governor’s Association – state government activity related to the virus is here.
- Multistate Policy Tracker
- Multistate: Stay at Home Orders – What is Considered “Essential Business”?
- Stateline Map
- Agribusiness State Impact Updates
- (March 31) Commercial and Regulatory Seed Labs Status
- (March 27) State Seed Control Official Updates
State Specific Updates
International (contact Abigail Struxness at email@example.com)
- 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: (March 18) – “The Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport will remain operational despite an Alameda County shelter-in-place order. Both facilities are essential services exempt from the California order. Ocean shipping volumes in the Trans-Pacific remain imbalanced as China manufacturing operations recover, leading to intermittent shortages of containers. We are also hearing reports of blank sailings and long lines to pick up and drop off containers at certain West Coast ports. We will continue to follow this situation closely. ASTA signed on to a multi-association letter to the Federal Maritime Commission urging ocean carriers to waive detention and demurrage fees when the situation is out of the shipper’s control, including COVID-19.
- 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)
- U.S. – Canada – Mexico Border Information
- (March 26) Canadian American Business Council Survey on Impacts of United States – Canada Border Closure
- (March 20) Temporary Restriction of Travelers Crossing the U.S. – Canada Land Border for Non-Essential Purposes
- (March 20) Notification of Temporary Travel Restrictions Applicable to Land Ports of Entry and Ferries Service Between the United States and Mexico
- NOTE: U.S. land borders restricted for movement of people. Cargo is exempt, and there are exemptions for essential business employees, agricultural workers, and people moving the cargo as well.
- International Seed Movement
- ISF statement on seed movement
- European Union (EU) Commission Director-General for Health and Food Safety’s Letter on the importance of the seed industry
- European Commission Guidelines Concerning the Exercise of the Free Movement of Workers during COVID-19
- ASTA is in contact with national seed associations and U.S. Embassies around the globe. If you are experiencing a seed movement or trade issue outside of the U.S. related to COVID-19, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phytosanitary (contact Ric Dunkle at email@example.com)
- 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
After careful consideration, we have decided it is best to announce the cancellation of ASTA’s Policy & Leadership Development Conference, which was to be held in conjunction with AOSA/SCST’s Annual Meeting in June in Indianapolis. While the three organizations were looking forward to bringing together the seed industry and the seed testing community for this valuable opportunity for education and connectivity, the health and safety of our membership is our highest priority. Given the current COVID-19 global pandemic, we did not want to put our attendees at risk. We are exploring virtual content programming that may be offered later this year, with a focus on the most pressing issues facing the seed industry at this difficult time, and the important association business that would have been conducted at the event. ASTA has been actively tracking information related to COVID-19 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you were already registered for the conference and have questions related to your registrant, contact Jennifer Crouse at email@example.com.
ASTA Member’s Only Resources
- The below links will take you to the members only log-in portal. If you have trouble logging in, please contact Ellen Zimmerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Critical Worker memo and sample template letter
- FDA Guidance
- Business Guidance on Contracts
- Q&A on H-2A
- Recorded Member Calls
- Emergency Paid Sick Leave Policy Update
Federal Government Resources
- Press Release – USDA Ensures Food Safety During COVID-19 Outbreak
- For solutions impacting America’s food supply chain and other logistical complications, email FoodSupplyChain@usda.gov.
- For solutions impacting agriculture labor visas, email AgLabor@usda.gov.
- CIOPORA Assistance
- USDA Biotechnology Regulatory Service (contact: Bernice Slutsky at email@example.com)
- (March 19) BRS COVID-19 Update
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- U.S. Department of Labor
- U.S. Department of the Treasury
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
- Small Business Administration Guidance & Loan Resources
- NASDA State Resources
- Critical Infrastructure
- (March 19) Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-8) led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the Trump administration urging the removal of specific hurdles in order to ensure the timely processing of H-2A visa requests to ensure agricultural labor needs are met during the COVID-19 crisis. The full letter can be found online here.
- (March 17) A letter was sent to Sec. Pompeo from a coalition of ag organizations asking that processing of visas for H-2A workers be deemed essential. Ag labor coalition is working on language for the Senate bill to help ensure that H-2 processing is considered emergency/priority and shall continue.
- Country-specific information can be found on the State Department’s COVID-19 information page.
- ASTA signed on to a multi-association letter to the Federal Maritime Commission urging ocean carriers to waive detention and demurrage fees when the situation is out of the shipper’s control, including COVID-19.
- Canadian Seed Trade Association COVID Webpage
- Asia and Pacific Seed Association COVID-19 Resources
- Seed Association of the Americas COVID-19 Statement
- AgSafe COVID-19 Resources
- ASTA Letter to ISF on Seed Industry Impacts