May 8, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation with ramifications for the economy, interstate commerce and the Midwest's food manufacturing industry.

MWFPA continues to closely monitor evolving information about the coronavirus/COVID-19 and is providing the following information as a supplement to our regular News Bulletin for your use.

MWFPA has also created a resource page to assist food manufacturers and supply chain partners in mitigating the negative impacts of the coronavirus COVID-19. We will continue to keep our members updated on any new developments. Click here to access MWFPA's COVID-19 resource page.
The MWFPA COVID-19 Update is underwritten by Alliant Energy
MIdwest States' Pandemic Truck Weight Limits To Expire

Modifications to Wisconsin’s overweight and oversize truck limits will end when the Governor Evers’ original emergency order ends – May 11.

The Governor had directed the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue permits for transporting supplies to grocery retailers impacted by the current public health situation. Fees were waived for the permit, which allowed an additional 8,000 pounds for a legal maximum of 88,000 pounds for both interstate and intrastate carriers.

The permits were valid until April 11 but that cutoff date was extended until May 11. Various provisions of the emergency order were also extended and expanded at that time. It relieved truckers from certain motor carrier safety regulations under administrative rule and federal law, authorized gross vehicle weights up to 90,000 pounds and waived fees to obtain a 72-hour trip permit for certain vehicles traveling into Wisconsin.

DOT officials have looked for ways to extend the order on their own, but the Department does not find that to be possible.

Illinois made similar adjustments to its laws regarding overweight permits and those are set to expire on May 16th. State officials have announced they will not be renewing those adjustments. The states of Iowa and Minnesota will not be extending their higher weight limits which expire May 15 and May 16 respectively.
COVID-19 Preparation In Food Processing

Compiled here are the most recent and relevant resources representing federal level guidelines that will help protect your workforce and mitigate the risk to your business of COVID-19.

Follow the Relevant Guidance

Secure and Require PPE
Make sure you have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure your workers are protected against COVID-19. A critical component in implementing your PPE preservation strategy is determining the amount of PPE you’ll need. Refer to this document for a list of PPE providers for the food industry.

It is very difficult to maintain physical distancing in a food facility. Therefore, the safest course of action is to require the use of face coverings in addition to social distancing. In addition, as guidance continues to evolve, be sure to document the changes you’re making to protect your workforce.

Contact Your Local Public Health Department
Contact your local public health officials so they are aware of and have confidence in your company’s procedures before an incident occurs. Building these relationships and contacts now could be very helpful at a future point in time. For example, requesting their help in getting access to testing.

Thanks to the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) for compiling this information. Note: Relative to quarantine procedures for migrant labor, MWFPA members are juggling shifting information from health officials, the federal government and state and local authorities concerning implementation.
Court Dismisses Lawsuit Accusing Company of Putting Meat Processing Plant Workers at Risk of COVID-19 Virus

A federal judge in Missouri dismissed a highly-publicized lawsuit accusing meat processor Smithfield Foods, Inc. of putting its workers at risk of contracting COVID-19 by not taking adequate steps to prevent transmission of the virus at its Milan, Missouri plant (the Plant). A copy of the Order, issued Tuesday, is  here .

Read more from MWFPA associate member Michael Best.
USDA Outlines Expectations to States Regarding Compliance with Defense Production Act

On Tuesday Secretary of Agriculture Sunny Perdue issued letters to governors and leadership of major meat processing companies requiring continuity of their business.

The two letters outline the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s “clear expectations for the implementation of President Trump’s Executive Order signed last week.

He also made clear that further action under the Executive Order and the Defense Production Act is under consideration and will be taken if necessary referring the Order's language conferring authority on the Secretary of Agriculture over all food supply chains, including the meat and poultry industry.
  • Executive Order 13917 signed by President Trump delegated to the Secretary of Agriculture the powers of the President under the Defense Production Act to take all appropriate action to ensure America’s meat and poultry processors continue operations.
  • Meat and poultry processors should utilize the guidance issued by CDC and OSHA specifically for the meat and poultry processing industry. The guidance meant to help keep these critical facilities open while maintaining worker safety.
  • USDA directed meat and poultry processing plants currently closed and without a clear timetable for near-term reopening to submit to USDA their protocol, based on the CDC/OSHA guidance and resume operations as soon as they are able to after implementing the CDC/OSHA guidance.
  • USDA will work with CDC, OSHA, state, and local officials to ensure that facilities are implementing best practices designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining operations.
  • Further action under the Executive Order and the Defense Production Act is under consideration and will be taken if necessary.
The letters were sent to 9 governors and 6 companies.
New CDC Data Extends Isolation Recommendations

The CDC has put out new guidance for isolation ; extending 7 days of isolation to at least 10 days after illness onset.

Persons recovering from COVID-19 illness should remain isolated for at least 10 days after illness onset and at least 3 days (72 hours) after recovery. This is an increase from CDC’s previously recommended 7 days.

The extension was made because CDC found that the virus is still detectable on Day 7, but no longer culturable on Day 9.
U.S. Dept. of Labor Releases OSHA Poster on Workplace Coronavirus Exposure Prevention in 11 New Languages

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has translated and published its “Ten Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus” poster in 11 additional languages. It was already available in English and Spanish.

The additional translations are OSHA’s latest effort to educate and protect America’s workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic. In response to President Trump’s action to increase the availability of general use respirators, OSHA has issued a series of guidance documents that expand access to respirators in the workplace. OSHA has also published Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 , its guidance aimed at helping workers and employers learn about ways to protect themselves and their workplaces during the ongoing pandemic.
USDA Announces Additional Food Purchase Plans

On Monday of this week U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced details of $470 million in Section 32 food purchases to occur in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020, in addition to purchases previously announced, which will enable USDA to purchase surplus food for distribution to communities nationwide.

These Section 32 purchases will provide additional support for producers and Americans in need, in response to changing market conditions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency.

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will purchase a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and seafood products. Purchases are determined by industry requests, market analysis and food bank needs.

AMS will begin issuing solicitations in June and intends to begin deliveries in July. Details on how vendors may participate are available on the  Selling Food to USDA  page on the AMS website. Solicitations will be posted to the AMS Open Purchases Request website once available. Industry requests for future purchases using Section 32 funds, including potential plans for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020, will be assessed on an ongoing basis.

Federal agencies need to develop and mandate uniform workplace safety rules for essential businesses operating during the coronavirus pandemic, said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association. "The federal government, particularly CDC and OSHA, is failing to provide the clear and specific guidance necessary to encourage relatively consistent adoption across the country," he said.

OSHA Inspectors Conducting Hundreds Of Coronavirus-Related Workplace Investigations

  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating almost 200 coronavirus-related cases in which employers inadequately protected their workers from the pandemic, according to USA Today. The investigations by OSHA officials encompass workplaces in two dozen states and 96,000 workers. Half of the investigations involve employee deaths or hospitalizations, according to the report.

WI Supreme Court Set To Decide On Whether Stay At Home Order Is Lawful

The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard virtual oral arguments last Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by Republican state lawmakers against Gov. Tony Evers and Andrea Palm, the state Department of Health secretary-designee, over the administration’s order that nonessential businesses remain closed until at least May 26.

The Wisconsin Legislature brought the lawsuit against Palm claiming that she exceeded her authority and also did not enact the order lawfully.

The court will make decisions on two questions:

1) Whether the Department of Health Services (the Department) violated Wis. Stat. § 227.24 , governing emergency rules, by issuing Emergency Order No. 28 without complying with § 227.24’s procedures?

2) Even if the Department did not violate § 227.24, whether Emergency Order No. 28 exceeds the Department’s authority by closing all “nonessential” businesses, ordering all Wisconsin persons to stay at home, and forbidding all “nonessential” travel?

The court did not state when it would make a decision on the case but met in closed session late Tuesday afternoon.
MN Senate Approves $20 Million In Grants For Rural Broadband

As many Minnesotans are forced to work and learn from home during the coronavirus pandemic, the state Senate on Monday, May 4, unanimously voted to create a $20 million grant program to expand rural broadband access.

Many MWFPA members lack access to affordable, reliable broadband because they operate in low population rural areas.

Read more .
Delauro, Peterson, Andrés And Former Ag Secretaries Push COVID 'Action Plan' For USDA

Two former secretaries of agriculture, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, a well-known chef and restaurant owner and Consumer Reports have joined Rep. Rosa DeLauro in releasing an “action plan” addressing food and worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic. DeLauro outlined the plan in a  letter  to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue.

“The plan includes detailed steps the USDA should immediately take, including diverting surplus food that is currently being wasted, protecting workers — from the farm to the grocery store — who make feeding America possible, and fully utilizing existing authority and resources provided by Congress to help farmers, ranchers, and grower operations,” a  news release  from DeLauro’s office says. “It also includes a plan for USDA to partner with Congress on additional innovative solutions to feed all Americans.”

Brian Elliott | Midwest Food Products Association | Ph: (608) 255-9946 | Fax: (608) 255-9838