COVID-19: Industry Resources

Last Updated: March 29, 2021
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.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Updates

Updates


On February 27, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the third vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The EUA allows the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to be distributed in the U.S for use in individuals 18 years of age and older.

On December 20, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 in favor of the plan put forth by an ACIP work group, which puts the nation’s approximately 30 million frontline essential workers, including those in the food and agriculture industry, should be in the second group to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

Also on December 20, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the second vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The emergency use authorization allows the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to be distributed in the U.S. for use in individuals 18 years of age and older.

On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorization (EUA) for a vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in individuals 16 years of age and older. The emergency use authorization allows the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to be distributed in the U.S. Read more here.

The Federal Government's plan is to distribute approved vaccines through Operation Warp Speed. Operation Warp Speed's goal is to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with the initial doses available by January 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics (collectively known as countermeasures).

Food Safety

Food Safety Protocol

Food Safety Protocol 

Food production facilities, distributors and wholesalers are part of our nation’s “critical infrastructure” and must remain operational to feed the country. This document, created by the food and beverage industry, recommends a consistent approach in how a company can continue operations in the event an individual has tested positive, given the global COVID-19 pandemic and high transmissibility of this respiratory virus from person to person. This guidance relies on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and will cover recommendations on:
  • Steps to be taken when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 (a confirmed case) or has symptoms associated with COVID-19—cough, fever, sore throat, shortness of breath (presumptive or suspected case)
  • Steps to be taken when an employee/facility visitor is exposed (in close contact) to an individual who is positive for COVID-19
Food & Drug Administration

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Farm & Markets

Farm Service Agency

Farm Service Agency


Farm Service Agency offices have began operating at 50% capacity. Find your state and local office here.

On January 27, 2021, USDA announced the temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

USDA’s Farm Service Agency is providing additional flexibilities to provide producers with credit options in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Those include:

  • Where not legally prohibited, FSA will accept FAXed or scanned signatures from customers and lenders.
  • FSA will follow the most current state or local guidance for use of online or virtual notary services.

FSA is currently relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need.

Suspending Debt Collection and Foreclosures
USDA has temporarily suspended non-judicial foreclosures, debt offsets or wage garnishments, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice. USDA is working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to stop judicial foreclosures and evictions on accounts that were previously referred to the Department of Justice.

Additionally, USDA extended deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers. In addition, for the Guaranteed Loan program, flexibilities have been made available to lenders to assist in servicing their customers.

The temporary suspension is in place until further notice and is expected to continue while the national COVID-19 disaster declaration is in place.

Contact the FSA office at your local USDA Service Center.

Relaxing the Loan Making Process
FSA is relaxing the loan making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need. This includes:

  • For direct loan applicants, FSA provides two notifications of an incomplete application. These notices give the applicant 20 calendar days and 10 calendar days, respectively, to provide the additional information needed before the application is withdrawn.  FSA loan officials will maintain close communication with applicants who are experiencing difficulties completing application requirements due to complications from COVID-19 and may grant the applicant an extension.
  • Where lien searches cannot be properly completed due to local and state government office closures, applicants may be considered eligible and processing of the loan may continue without a county records search, assuming all other eligibility and loan making criteria can be satisfied.
  • Preparing loan closing 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.
  • Closing loans if the required lien position on the primary security is perfected, even for loans that require additional security and those filings and recordings cannot be obtained because of closed government buildings.
  • Extending the repayment period of annual operating loans beyond 18 months to help borrowers survive through unique periods of financial difficulty.
  • Use of video conferencing to facilitate loan closings, where notary services are not required.
  • For guaranteed loans, FSA may grant an extension to guaranteed lenders that are unable to provide a complete application within the normal timeframe because of reasons outside of their control caused by COVID-19.  Because each applicant and lender’s circumstances are unique, extensions will be granted on a case-by-case basis.
  • If lenders need to extend credit to a customer that would normally require an FSA guarantee, but the lender is unable to apply for a guarantee due to the various pandemic restrictions in place, FSA will be as flexible as possible when evaluating the test for credit if the lender requests a guarantee on that loan at a later time. The lender would need to clearly document why they were unable to apply for the guarantee with the initial loan due to the coronavirus pandemic situation in their local area.

Given the current uncertainty and extreme volatility of commodity prices, it is difficult to project planning prices for many commodities with a high degree of certainty.  Therefore, FSA will continue the use of commodity planning prices already approved for the current year.  However, customers must be advised of the potential budget, cash flow, and loan impacts if projected prices are unable to be realized.

Servicing Direct Loans
FSA is extending deadlines for producers to respond to application packages for Primary Loan Servicing and Distressed Loan Servicing. Financially distressed and delinquent direct loan borrowers who have been notified of the available loan servicing options will be provided an additional time to:

  • submit a complete application for loan servicing,
  • accept an offer of loan servicing,
  • provide a response to a denial of loan servicing, or
  • request homestead protection.

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.

Servicing Guaranteed Loans
In addition to the existing guaranteed loan servicing options already available within the FSA guaranteed loan program, FSA is offering lenders additional flexibility. This includes:

  • Standard Eligible Lenders (SEL) may certify that they have met all FSA requirements for annual line of credit advances and will not need FSA prior written approval.
  • SEL and Certified Lender Program (CLP) lenders may certify that they have met all FSA requirements for emergency advances and will not need FSA prior written approval.
  • SEL and CLP lenders may certify that they have a feasible plan for additional loans made outside of the guarantee and will not need FSA prior written approval. Loans made under the Small Business Administration’s new Paycheck Protection Program can be made at the lender’s discretion without FSA approval.

Lenders are also encouraged to submit status and default status reports online through the Lender LINC System. Lenders should contact the FSA office at their local USDA Service Center for questions related to a specific account, or any short-term payment deferral and forbearance consideration.

Disaster Set-Aside
FSA made the Disaster Set-Aside provision available to direct loan borrowers who have been impacted by the pandemic. This enables an upcoming annual installment to be set aside for the year and added to the final installment. For annual operating loans, the loan maturity date may be extended up to twelve months in order to set aside the installment.

This provision is normally used in the wake of natural disasters, and a second Disaster Set-Aside may be available for direct loan borrowers who already have a DSA in place on a loan due to another designated natural disaster.

Agriculture Workforce (H-2A Visa Program)

H-2A Visa Program

  • The Department of State issued a special interest exception for H-2A and certain H-2B travelers effected by the President's Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus DiseaseSee the interest exception announcement here
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) along with USDA has announced a temporary final rule to change certain H-2A requirements to help U.S. agricultural employers avoid disruptions from the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. H2-A petitioners concerned about workers being able to enter the country will be able to employ certain foreign workers in the country who have current H2-A status immediately after United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives an application. Workers will be able to start no earlier than start date listed on the original petition. Read more about this rule here.
  • DHS is also implementing temporary change to rules on H-2B guest workers to allow for those nonagricultural workers to be hired for positions in the US food supply chain. A temporary final rule published in the Federal Register on August 20, 2020 is good through April 2023 to allow those in the US food supply chain to hire current H-2B employees whose work contracts or three-year visas are expiring. Employers and workers have until December 17, 2020, to enter into new work contracts. Get more information about these changes here
  • 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.
  • USDA continues 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. Please copy GATeam@usarice.com so we can assist you, also.

Business Operations

Guidance for Workplace

Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) released guidance for businesses and employers to plan and respond to COVID-19. 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a website to detail the change and relaxation of OSHA standards in regard to COVID-19. OSHA has also created guidance for preparing a workplace for the possible outbreak of COVID-19.  This document details how to reduce the impact of the virus on your workplace based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is increasing the availability of surface disinfectants for use against COVID-19. List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 (List N) now contains over 360 products and has enhanced functionality to allow users to sort these products by surface type and use site. EPA is also continuing to expedite the review process for new disinfectants.

EPA has also released guidance regarding the annual pesticide safety training requirements outlined in the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) that offers flexibility during the COVID-19 public health emergency. In response, the guidance aims to inform agricultural employers and handler employers of flexibilities available under the WPS to allow continued protection for employees and agricultural production: 

  • EPA encourages in-person training if workplace protections to maintain a healthy work environment are able to be implemented. For example, an employer may be able to provide pesticide safety training outside, in smaller than usual groups with well-spaced participants.
  • Alternatively, WPS training can be presented remotely, provided all WPS training requirements are met.
  • The employer is ultimately responsible for ensuring the training meets all requirements outlined in the WPS. For example, the training must still be presented in a manner the trainees can understand, in an environment reasonably free from distractions, and cover the full training content using EPA-approved training materials.
  • Once the training ends, the employer must document successful completion under a qualified trainer.

To read the guidance in full and to learn more about EPA’s Worker Protection Standard, visit EPA's webpage.

Internal Revenue Service

Economic Impact Payments

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service announced that distribution of economic impact payments will begin soon and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. However, some seniors and others who typically do not file tax returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the stimulus payment. More information here.

Department of Labor

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced its first round of published guidance to provide information to employees and employers about how each will be able to take advantage of the protections and relief offered by the FFCRA when it takes effect on April 1, 2020. 

The guidance – provided in a Fact Sheet for Employees, a Fact Sheet for Employers and a Questions and Answers document – addresses critical questions, such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage; how small businesses can obtain an exemption; how to count hours for part-time employees; and how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law.
 
Small Business Administration Loans

Small Business Administration Loans

The Small Business Administration has created a Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources webpage, including resources and information on how to apply for a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

Paycheck Protection Program

The CARES Act appropriated $349 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP is a guaranteed loan program administered by the Small Business Administration. The purpose of the program is to support small businesses and help support their payroll during the coronavirus situation.

Agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers with 500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States are eligible for PPP. Farms are eligible if:

  • the farm has 500 or less employees, OR
  • it fits within the revenue-based sized standard, which is on average annual receipts of $1 million.

Additionally, a farm can qualify for PPP if it meets SBA’s “alternative size standard.” The “alternative size standard” is currently:

  • a maximum net worth of the business not more than $15 million, AND
  • the average net income Federal income taxes of the business for the two full fiscal years before the date of the application be not more than $5 million.

As long as other eligibility requirements are met, small agricultural cooperatives may receive PPP loans. Other forms of cooperatives may be eligible provided they comply with all other Loan Program Requirements.

Learn more about PPP and your potential eligibility by visiting usda.gov/coronavirus and sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans

The SBA has begun to accept new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance applications on a limited basis only to provide relief to U.S. agricultural businesses. The new eligibility is made possible as a result of the latest round of funds appropriated by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • Agricultural businesses includes those businesses engaged in the production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)).
  • SBA is encouraging all eligible agricultural businesses with 500 or fewer employees wishing to apply to begin preparing their business financial information needed for their application.
  • Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. For agricultural businesses that submitted an EIDL application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will process these applications without the need for re-applying.
Eligible agricultural businesses may apply for the Loan Advance here. Additional information on Economic Injury Disaster Loans can be found here

Trade

Border Closings/Travel Advisories

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

DHS 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:

U.S. Department of State

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. More information here

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)


CFAP 3
The COVID-19 Aid/Fiscal Year 2021 spending package was signed into law late December 2020. The ag provisions of the bill include $13 billion allocated to ag programs, including $11.2 billion for CFAP 3 payments. USDA has not yet made an announcement regarding the third round of CFAP payments. 

CFAP 2
USDA announced an expansion of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program on September 17. Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2, CFAP 2, provided producers with financial assistance to absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

CFAP 1
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) on April 17, 2020 in response to COVID-19. This program took several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers. Direct payments were based on actual losses due to prices and markets impacted by COVID-19. Commodity procurement was focused on beef, dairy, pork, fruits and vegetables. More known details are available here.

Federal & State Government Actions

State Government Actions

Additional Resources

USA Rice News

USA Rice COVID-19 News