COVID-19: Industry Resources

Last Updated: March 30, 2020
The COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly.  USA Rice is curating the best resources for our industry and including them here.  

If you can't find what you are looking for, please email GATeam@usarice.com.  For media inquiries, please email media@usarice.com.

Consumer information and resources can be found here.

Food Safety

USDA FSIS

Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

  • Meat, poultry, and processed egg inspection services continue as normal.
  • Planning for absenteeism is a part of normal FSIS operations and as such, FSIS is closely monitoring and tracking employee absenteeism to plan for and minimize impacts to operations.
  • FSIS is also working to prioritize inspection at establishments based on local conditions and resources available.
FSIS Links:
USDA APHIS & AMS

Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) & 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. 
  • APHIS and AMS are prepared to remedy any possible disruptions in their services.
  • Commodity markets can be assured that the USDA will keep America’s food supply safe as well as abundant during this national emergency. 
  • AMS will continue to report commodity prices through its market news service.
  • APHIS understands the importance of facilitating trade and will continue to provide services to complete required paperwork to support the import and export of live animals and plants and animal products. To support social distancing and protect the health and safety of employees, whenever possible, APHIS will seek to process these documents electronically. For more information about what services are available in your local area, please see the following resources:
    • For import questions, email: plantproducts.permits@usda.gov or call 1-877-770-5990
    • For export questions, call 301-851-2309
USDA FGIS 

Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS)

  • FGIS will ensure employees understand and adhere to appropriate safety guidelines as provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All USDA employees have received guidance on protocols, preventative measures and mitigation guidelines regarding COVID-19. As always, AMS personnel, including inspectors, are instructed to stay home if they are ill. In addition, employees who believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19 have been instructed to stay home. 
  • FGIS is implementing mitigating strategies to reduce risk of exposure, such as: modifying standard work practices as appropriate; providing personal protective equipment (e.g., latex gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, as well as cleaning supplies); allowing staff screenings at grain elevator locations.
  • FGIS will continue to deliver inspection and weighing services. Staff providing these services in areas with closures will be equipped with credentials authorizing them as essential personnel.
  • FGIS will work closely with customers to ensure consistent communication about service issues. If needed, AMS is prepared to remedy any possible disruptions in services. For example, FGIS may enlist employees from other parts of the agency (including interior field offices, headquarters, and support divisions), Delegated States (DS) or Official Agencies (OAs) to assist with providing services. If these measures cannot be taken, FGIS will inform customers of alternative options.
FGIS Links:
FDA

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

  • FDA announced earlier in March that it is postponing most foreign facility inspections through April and that inspections outside the U.S. deemed mission-critical will be considered on a case-by-case basis as this outbreak continues to unfold.
  • FDA has also temporarily postponed all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections. These are facility inspections the FDA traditionally conducts every few years based on a risk analysis. All domestic for-cause inspection assignments will be evaluated and will proceed if mission-critical. More information here
  • FDA will temporarily suspend Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) supplier verification onsite audit requirements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. More information here
  • To facilitate the distribution of food during the COVID-19 pandemic, FDA has created the Guidance for Industry: Temporary Policy Regarding Nutrition Labeling of Certain Packaged Food During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, to provide restaurants and food manufacturers with flexibility regarding nutrition labeling of certain packaged food

Farm Implications & Input Supply Chain

USDA Service Centers

USDA Service Centers

  • USDA Service Centers will continue to be open for business by phone appointment only and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While Service Center buildings are not currently accessible to customers, services are still available via phone appointment or online. Farmers can find their Service Center’s phone number at farmers.gov/service-center-locator.
Farm Service Agency

Farm Service Agency

USDA’s Farm Service Agency is relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need.

  • FSA is relaxing the loan-making process. This includes:
    • Extending the deadline for applicants to complete farm loan applications;
    • Preparing Direct Loans documents even if FSA is unable to complete lien and record searches because of closed government buildings. Once those searches are complete, FSA would close the loan; and
    • Closing loans if the required lien position on the primary security is perfected, even for loans that require additional security and those lien searches, filings, and recordings cannot be obtained because of closed government buildings.
  • FSA is extending deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers.
  • FSA will temporarily suspend loan accelerations, non-judicial foreclosures, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will make the determination whether to stop foreclosures and evictions on accounts under its jurisdiction.
  • Guarantee lenders can self-certify, providing their borrowers with: Subsequent-year operating loan advances on lines of credit and emergency advances on lines of credit.
  • FSA will consider guaranteed lender requests for:
    • Temporary payment deferral consideration when borrowers do not have a feasible plan reflecting that family living expenses, operating expenses, and debt can be repaid; and
    • Temporary forbearance consideration for borrowers on loan liquidation and foreclosure actions.

Risk Management Agency

Risk Management Agency

The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) is now authorizing additional flexibilities due to coronavirus while continuing to support producers, working through Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) to deliver services, including processing policies, claims and agreements. These flexibilities include:

  • Electronic Notifications Allowed for Required Reports
    • Producers may send notifications and reports electronically for written agreement issues, acreage and production reporting and upcoming sales closing dates (deadlines to buy crop insurance). Notice of the policyholder’s election may be provided over the phone with appropriate documentation of the call or using electronic methods followed by their confirmation of such election in writing (a signed, or e-signed, form) no later than July 15, 2020. 
  • Production Reporting Date Extended
    • For the 2020 crop year, AIPs may accept production reports through the earlier of the acreage reporting date (ARD) or 30 days after the production reporting date (PRD) for crops insured under the Common Crop Insurance Policy Basic Provisions with a PRD of March 15, 2020, or later. Generally, the PRD for crops insured under the Common Crop Insurance Policy Basic Provisions is the earlier of the ARD or 45 days after the cancellation date.
  • Additional Time Given and Interest Deferred on Premium Payments, Written Payment Agreements
    • AIPs are authorized to provide additional time for policyholders to make payment of premium and administrative fees. Interest accrual on premium payments and administrative fees will be waived to the earliest of an additional 60 days from the scheduled payment due date or the termination date on policies with premium billing dates between March 1, 2020, and April 30, 2020. AIPs are also authorized to provide additional time for policyholders to make payment for Written Payment Agreements due between March 1, 2020, and April 30, 2020. Payments may be extended up to 60 days from the scheduled payment due date and considered a timely payment. 
H-2A Visa Program

H-2A Visa Program

  • USDA plans to update its website with information and guidance at www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a.
  • For solutions impacting agriculture labor visas, email AgLabor@usda.gov. This email account has been set up by USDA to receive stakeholder comments. 
  • The Federal government is taking additional steps to increase processing of H-2 visa holders through consulates around the world. Specifically:

    • The State Department, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. 
    • Consular officers can, if they so choose, now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no potential ineligibility.  
    • This expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver. Applicants whose previous visas expired in the last 48 months (increased from 12 months), and who did not require a waiver of ineligibility the last time they applied, do not need to be interviewed in-person if they are applying for the same visa classification as their previous visa.
    • It is anticipated the vast majority of otherwise qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview.

Access to Food & Food Supply Chain

These email accounts have been set up by USDA to receive stakeholder comments:

USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

  • Secretary Perdue has announced a collaboration with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and others to deliver nearly 1,000,000 meals per week to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19. These boxes will contain five days’ worth of shelf-stable, nutritious, individually packaged foods that meet USDA’s summer food requirements. The use of this innovative delivery system will ensure rural children receive nutritious food while limiting exposure to COVID-19. 
  • Secretary Perdue has announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation. 
  • USDA is using all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve our program participants across our 15 nutrition programs. We have already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants. As of today, USDA has been asked to waive congregate feeding requirements in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; USDA has granted those requests.
Trucking/Highway State Official Announcements
  • The American Trucking Association (ATA) has compiled a resource of state-specific information related to trucking and emergency declarations: ATA State Resource.

Trade & Foreign Agricultural Affairs

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)

Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)

  • FAS has plans and workplace flexibilities in place to ensure that it can continue to deliver on its mission of creating global trade opportunities for the producers and exporters of American farm and food products. These efforts include continued monitoring and reporting on U.S. agricultural exports, global agricultural trade, and trade policy priorities such as implementation of the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement. 
Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM)

Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM)

  • EXIM announced relief measures for its U.S. exporters, especially U.S. small business exporters, as well as financial institutions related to the COVID-19 outbreak. More information here

Other Information

U.S. Department of Commerce

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

  • The IRS has officially announced that tax day will be delayed from April 15 to July 15.
  • The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. More information here
U.S. Department of Transportation

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

  • FMCSA issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Direct assistance means transportation and other relief services provided by a motor carrier or its driver(s) incident to the immediate restoration of essential services, such as medical care, or essential supplies such as food, related to COVID-19 outbreaks during the emergency. More information here
  • FMCSA is also releasing guidance about the impact of the COVID-19 national emergency on DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements for employers, employees, and service agents. Click here for more information.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security has released joint statements with each Canada and Mexico in regards to COVID-19 and the Canadian and Mexican borders. More details can be found below:

The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also created a page with a purpose to help the public distinguish between rumors and facts regarding the response to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Visit https://www.fema.gov/Coronavirus-Rumor-Control for more information. Follow state and local officials as well for instructions and information specific to your community.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

  • CISA released guidance to help state and local jurisdictions and the private sector identify and manage their essential workforce while responding to COVID-19. Agriculture and food are recognized within this guidance. CISA will use this list to support federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government response to COVID-19. To view the full list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers and to learn more about our efforts, visit www.cisa.gov/coronavirus.
CFTC

Commodity Futures Trading Commission

The CFTC has issued a series of temporary, targeted relief to designated market participants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts are designed to help facilitate orderly trading and liquidity in the U.S. derivatives markets. All relief granted by the Commission due to COVID-19 can be found at https://www.cftc.gov/coronavirus.

Additional Resources

USA Rice News

USA Rice COVID-19 News