As this challenging week comes to an end, we still have things we are working towards to help move the industry forward. After the Governor’s executive order, we have been trying to advocate for any type of retail sales in the greenhouse business. This means looking at ways to market products without personal contact or danger of transmitting the disease to our customers or employees. We have been trying to push curbside pickup, delivery or possibly drive through service. I don’t see any changes to the Governor’s order until the infection rate and death rate go down considerably for several days.
Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council has signed on with AmericanHort, as well as several other groups around the country, in a letter to the USDA director Perdue asking for some assistance during this crisis with financial losses due to the government ordered shut down, as ordered by several states. Hopefully this will address the losses of product and sales that have been realized by the industry. Read that letter HERE.
I am still working with Senator Stabenow’s staff on the CARES Act funding for specialty crops and getting the greenhouse industry included in the final determination of need. We have sent several examples of potential losses to them and they are putting the final touches on their proposal to the USDA soon. I hope to hear of our inclusion before long,and will make sure I reach out, as soon as I have information about the application process.
This crisis has been a difficult time for our industry and emotions are running high with no answers to our many questions or a timeline for the end of this crisis. This weekend, take time to look around you at how incredibly blessed we are to have our faith, families and friends to help us through this time of need. I would like to wish everyone a blessed Easter.
The Governor had a press conference at 3pm today that extends the stay at home order and outlined new restrictions on the greenhouse / garden center industry. The following is an excerpt from Executive Order 2020- 42:
Travel for vacations or for any other nonessential purpose is now prohibited
Large stores must limit the number of people in the store to four customers for every 1,000 sq. ft
Large stores must close areas dedicated to carpeting, flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries or paint.
We partnered with Michigan Farm Bureau for a member action alert yesterday which as of 9 am this morning had sent 9,411 messages to the Governor’s office with our message of garden centers are essential. We have had several members of the legislature send letters to the Governor’s office supporting our cause and the Senate workgroup on which professions that can restart safely certainly understand the business. We need to keep advocating for the opportunity to sell in some manner whether it is curbside or delivery.
Legislative leadership is trying to work with the administration to find ways to get some businesses open safely. Contact your legislators and ask them to write a letter or call the Governors office asking her to reconsider some of her restrictions and not extend her ban on plant sales any further than April 30.
Hopefully the number of COVID-19 cases begins to start going down and we can start to get back to some sort of normal.
We had a conference call with MDARD late Thursday afternoon to discuss the latest restrictions imposed by the Governor. Garden centers were the hot topic as several people wanted the department to help educate the Governor on how garden centers should be essential. I brought up the fact that Michigan is one of two in the nation to shut down plant sales, why should we be so far behind? There was no answer given and the director only gave the Governor’s talking points and did not offer to intervene in any way. So disappointing! We are getting no support at all from MDARD and they should be helping to lead this effort. Please send your comments to them at MDARD-COVID19@Michigan.gov.
The Senate and House met yesterday to extend the Governors’ emergency powers for 23 days with a resolution. Each of the legislators was checked by medical personnel before they were allowed into the chambers to check in. This does not extend the Stay home Stay safe order, this just give the Governor emergency powers until April 30th. We should expect her to extend her order at some time soon. The Senate has put together a workgroup on which professions could restart safely. Here is an excerpt from MIRS news:
Senate Looking Into Which Professions Could Restart Safely
The Senate is pulling together a workgroup to look into how certain professions can be allowed to come back online safely during the coronavirus pandemic. The goal is to craft recommendations for the Governor by April 17.
Senate Majority Leader Mike SHIRKEY (R-Clarklake) said in a tele-press conference today there are real-life examples and good evidence to show some businesses can operate “as safely as you can at home.” He said Senators and staff have already collected many such examples and by consulting with medical professionals, they hope to find where businesses can return to work safely.
He called it a spectrum. A lawn mowing professional might work without interacting with anybody, so is not at a high risk.
“On the other end of the spectrum is conducting a rock concert at Ford Field, which would be way down the road of being able to provide assurances of safety for that kind of activity. We are talking about finding that transition in the middle between those two,” Shirkey explained.
Sen. Ken HORN (R-Frankenmuth) will chair the “Safe Behavior for Safe Workplaces” workgroup. Sen. Curt VANDERWALL (R-Ludington), Sen. Wayne SCHMIDT (R-Traverse City), Sen. Jeremy MOSS (D-Southfield), Sen. Sylvia SANTANA (D-Detroit) and Sen. Stephanie CHANG (D-Detroit) will round out the workgroup.
“Businesses across the state will be feeling the negative effects of the mandatory closures for months to come,” Horn said. “As soon as we can safely do so, we need to get people back to work and get our economy back on track.
I have reached out to two of the members so far and they are keenly aware of the garden center and greenhouse issue. Senator VanderWall told me he is calling the Governors’ office every other day to advocate for the industry. Senator Schmidt stated he has heard from the industry “Loud and clear”. I would expect that any recommendations will include some type of allowance for plant sales such as curbside or delivery for the industry. If your operation is in the Detroit or Southfield area, it may be good to reach out to Senators Moss, Santana or Chang encouraging them to support some type of sales ability for the industry. Please thank them for their attention to the greenhouse / garden center industry and ask for their help.
There have been a lot of rumors and questions going around the state and I have been working to run down the answers to each of them. It seems that different areas of the state are enforcing things differently and we need to continue advocating for retail sales of our products with the administration. Hopefully the Senate workgroup will get the Governors attention to have some common sense alternatives to the complete shutdown we are now facing.
If you are having trouble with the Payroll Protection Program, don’t give up. sbam.org has in depth help with the sign up as well as mipaychecprotection.com . This could be a lifeline for your business during this difficult time.
We begin a new week where we ended the last week, no news on when retail sales can begin in Michigan. We have had Senator Daley and Victory working on letters to the Governor and MDARD director on our behalf, while Representatives Alexander and VanSingel have both sent letters to the Governor asking for her to reconsider garden centers as essential. Now is the time to contact your Senator or Representative and ask them to advocate for the greenhouse industry in a letter or email to the Governor and MDARD director. If you have not contacted MDARD on this, you still can at MDARDcovidfirstname.lastname@example.org . Tell the department that garden centers should be essential so people can be growing their own food and this could be the largest number of people in history having a garden and being self-sufficient.
Make sure you sign up for the Paycheck Protection Program as soon as you can. Reach out to your lender to see if they are participating and get your application in. This is an opportunity to receive a forgivable loan for 250% of your average monthly payroll, utilities, rent or payment, and employee benefit packages, if you keep your people employed. For more information go to sbam.org and click on Paycheck Protection Plan details for an in-depth summary of this program or go to mipaycheckprotection.com for answers about the program – there is even a calculator to help put together everything that is eligible for this loan.
I have sent out the potential loss information I have received from people around the state to Senator Stabenow’s staff for the $9.5 billion fund for specialty crop losses. This is still in the development stage and we want to make sure that greenhouses are considered for repayment of the losses that could occur during this crisis. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to help support our industry.
Stay well, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face. Goeff
Today the Paycheck Protection Program goes live (sort of). Many banks are accepting SBA loan applications starting today, but it has started out slow. Many are now saying it will be Monday before they are ready. Call your bank today to see if they are accepting applications and get on the schedule to work with your lender. This is a first come first serve program because they won’t have enough money for every business in the nation. If it is not available today at your bank, it will be Monday so be ready. If you have any questions go to the SBAM website (SBAM.org) where they have in depth answers to most questions.
I will be reaching out to Senators and Representatives today to encourage them to contact the Governor about garden centers and their being essential. I am a little concerned that the Governor opened the door for a longer period of Stay Home – Stay Safe yesterday in her town hall meeting. We need everyone to contact your Senators and State Representatives for support on getting garden centers operating, at least in a reduced capacity in the extension if it comes.
I hope everyone has a safe and healthy weekend. Follow the guidelines and get outside for a walk or just spend a few minutes in the sunshine. I will send out any new information I hear, so stay tuned.
No news from MDARD or the Governor’s office today, but we have legislators stepping up to help us get the word to the Governor about garden centers being essential. Representative Scott Vansingel (100th district, Grant) wrote a very good very good letter you can pull up on Facebook. Senator Victory, Senator Daley, Senator Bumstead and Representative Alexander have all reached out to me to see how they can help with the issue. I have asked for them to all write a letter to the Governor and speak to her Liaison about garden centers. Senator Daley and Representative Alexander both chair Agriculture in their respective chambers, so they will be a big help while Senator Victory has the largest concentration of greenhouses in his district. Please reach out to these legislators and thank them for their work on our behalf.
I want to say thank you to everyone who has emailed or called me with ideas or questions about everything going on and shared their projected losses if the garden centers can’t open soon. Also thanks for sharing MGGC briefings and information around the state so we can keep everyone up to speed as we work together to keep our industry strong.
The Paycheck Protection Program goes live April 3, 2020.
Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards.
The application for borrowers can be found HERE (Please note that is processed through your local SBA lender. We recommend checking with your current financial institution first.
Yesterday there was a conference call with MDARD and the Director about questions and changes to the COVID-19 directives. The issue of garden centers and being able to sell product was brought up. I brought up the challenges of having such a perishable product and why we were not using the same essential list as other states such as New York, North Carolina or Georgia who list garden centers as essential. The Director said they are taking another look at the issue and working with the Governor to come up with a response. He wanted us to reach out to the Governor with our request to have garden centers listed as essential. I sent a copy of the letter I had sent the MDARD Director last Friday to the governor early Tuesday afternoon to ask for a reconsideration of the closing decision and am waiting for the response. MDARD is asking all questions and requests go through their new email for COVID-19 at MDARD.COVIDemail@example.com and look for FAQ answers at mi.gov/coronavirus.
Here is the letter I forwarded to the MDARD Director and Governor.
The payroll protection part of the CARES act is going through changes daily so go to the SBAM website SBAM.org for up to the minute information on this critical piece of the act. They have a great COVID-19 page with FAQ’s and information on financial assistance that is available for you and your employees.
As I had mentioned in my last update Senator Stabenow’s office has reached out to us for information to help shape the Producer Assistance for Specialty Crops part of the CARES act. They have allotted $9.5 Billion for COVID-19 relief and are looking for ways to make sure greenhouses are part of this. The Senators’ office is looking for any financial losses you may have occurred or may occur during this crisis if this continues much longer. Thanks to the folks that have sent me info so far but I would like to forward more to the Senator to show we need to be part of the specialty crop grant process.
Thanks to everyone who has reached out with concerns or good news stories about the industry as we try to navigate these untested waters. I have not heard if the Governor has decided to extend the stay at home rule but will keep you informed as soon as I hear anything. We need to keep emailing and contacting the Governor and MDARD Director to make sure they understand how important greenhouses and garden centers are to the Michigan residents physical and mental health.
Blessings for you, your family and your employees during these difficult times.
During this time of uncertainty, I hope everyone is well both physically and mentally. I have been working from home after being banished from the office until this COVID-19 issue is done and things return to normal. Cindy and I continue to keep everyone up to speed on developing items and events. Watch your email for (almost) daily updates from MGGC.
MDARD has sent me the following on garden centers: “No person or entity shall operate a business or conduct operations except to the extent that its workers are necessary to sustain and protect life, regardless of whether the business or operation is open to the public.” The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has deemed nurseries and greenhouses to be essential to the point of growing plants, however the sale of plants to public is not allowed. If selling wholesale, this is permissible.
I have asked for them to reconsider with a letter to the Director (available at www.MGGC.org.) showing we would be one of the few states who don’t list garden centers as essential, but they have not changed their stance. I will keep in touch with the department to see if they will reconsider.
I talked to Senator Stabenow’s staff on Friday about producer assistance for specialty crops in the CARES bill that had just been passed. They are trying to identify and quantify projected losses and impacts to determine how to make $9.5 Billion available for COVID-19 relief for producers. We will try to put some numbers together for them, if you have any to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week there are several opportunities to learn what assistance is available to help your business with the COVID-19 crisis. On Tuesday there is a webinar with a deep dive on the CARES Act and what it means to you in these troubling times. If you had tried to sign up and it said it was full, try again as they have been able to open it to 500 more participants. Also, every day at 3 pm SBAM has a live stream discussion on daily changes and questions posed by members on Facebook and Zoom. Check out their website for more information and COVID-19 resources at www.SBAM.org.
We are all trying to make sense of everything going on in the country and in our state in these times of turmoil, as well as attempting to keep our businesses afloat and our families and employees safe and secure. We will continue to bring you updates as we receive them to keep you informed in real time, so you can make sound decisions about your business and health.