The California Department of Food and Agriculture, in partnership with the California Fresh Fruit Association, local counties, and others, have initiated the Healthy Harvest program to support food workers at every level of the supply chain in staying well and keeping others well during the COVID-19 pandemic. Discover the highlights of this program and how you can help to ensure agriculture safety at your site.
Rights and Responsibilities for Agriculture Safety
One of the principal ways in which the California Department of Food and Agriculture is working to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to ensure that food workers and employers know their rights and responsibilities. The Healthy Harvest website reminds everyone involved in food production that employers have the following responsibilities to their workers:
- COVID-19 training should be provided to employees.
- Frequent hand-washing should be encouraged.
- Workers should be spaced at least 6 feet apart.
- Face coverings should be made available at no cost to workers.
- Surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- Employees need to be told about the availability of paid leave for testing and/or in the case of illness.
- Employees must be notified if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, agricultural workers should have access to paid sick leave from their employers and are also eligible for up to 80 hours of paid leave if they need to take time off work due to COVID-19.
In turn, employees have the responsibility to follow safe COVID-19 guidelines, notify their employer if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, and call the contact numbers provided here if they are not being adequately protected at work.
Special Support Offered by the Program
The California Department of Food and Agriculture realizes that many agricultural workers may be discouraged from seeking the help that they need because they fear losing income, paying for quarantine accommodation, or being reported to immigration (in the case of undocumented workers). To combat these very real issues, the Healthy Harvest program offers seven key resources to promote agriculture safety in Merced, Fresno, Madera, Kings, and Tulare:
- Spanish-language social media to reach out to farm and specialty-crop workers with COVID-19 information, safety recommendations, and work-related COVID-19 resources.
- A call center with the hotline (559) 710-2000 for both employers and workers to call for access to COVID-19 assistance. Employers in Fresno county can request free testing at their site and employees can request quarantine accommodation, PPE, testing, and case management.
- On-site testing with industry partners. This California Department of Food and Agriculture service is currently available in Fresno County and can be booked using this form. Other counties can call the hotline to schedule testing at a local center.
- Free quarantine accommodation for two weeks for workers who have received a positive COVID-19 test or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.
- Free transportation from home to the quarantine accommodation and back home again after the two weeks have finished.
- Three free meals per day during the quarantine period and case management support for the worker’s family.
- Income support for affected workers — regardless of immigration status.
In the case of an outbreak, Healthy Harvest and the California Department of Food and Agriculture provide the following numbers for the Business/Ag contact in each county:
Fresno County: Tom Fuller (559)-600-3357
Madera County: Amrit Sidhu (559)-517-0001
King’s County: Heather Silva (559)584-1401
Tulare County: (559)-624-8480
Merced County: (209)-724-4008
No matter how an outbreak starts, it’s incredibly important to notify the local authorities quickly so that the appropriate support and controls can be provided. Through Healthy Harvest, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is taking a harm minimization approach to agriculture safety, so the best thing that we can do is to access this assistance and help to stop the spread of the disease.
How Fruit Growers Supply Can Help
If you need personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning products, or anything else to help you comply with California Department of Food and Agriculture guidelines, be sure to give us a call or drop by one of our full-service stores in Orange Cove, Woodlake, Riverside, Porterville, or Santa Paula. In addition to corrugated boxes, pallets, irrigation, and postharvest services for growers, Fruit Growers Supply carries a vast inventory of retail products for workers from growers and pickers to packers and handlers. Contact our team to find out how we can help with agriculture safety at your site today.