We have received word from the attorney representing us that the judge has denied our request for a Temporary Restraining Order. We received an update from Varnum Law on the actions of the Court on Friday and wanted to pass this information along. Their message is as follows:
“The Court denied the Request for Temporary Restraining Order so the State’s Emergency Order remains in effect. The decision is disappointing in that the Court did not find the Order to be racially based. The State has until Tuesday to file a brief and then we will file reply brief due Thursday. We believe the Court did not fully consider facts and law presented and will work toward a brief that refocuses the Court’s consideration. We have also heard that Farmworker Legal Services and Michigan Immigrant Rights Center will file briefs to support the State, and Migrant Legal Aid plans to file a brief to support workers and employers. Again, we are disappointed with the initial decision and continue to have an uphill battle in challenging a COVID order. -Kim Clarke”
You should not wait for August 24th to test! Make sure you have made plans to have it done before the deadline. Keep up the good work, continue to keep your employees and customers safe during these tough times.
The USDA has finally added nursery crops and cut flowers to the CFAP payments as we sent out a notice yesterday. The percentages are not very high, 13.45-15.55% but we have at least been recognized for the losses incurred and for the importance of the industry. MGGC has continued to push for inclusion in the CFAP by joining other industry leaders in calls and letters outlining the size and importance of our industry. Thank you to all who have shared their loss data to show how hard the growers were hit with the quick onset of the government shutdown of business. The USDA has extended the deadline to September 11 for applications for relief. For more information, go to https://www.farmers.gov/cfap/nursery
MGGC is moving forward, with 171 other industry leaders, in a lawsuit against the Governor, MDHHS, and MDARD for the civil rights violations they have committed with the order for testing of all workers in the ag industries. The MGGC Board of Directors felt that an industry united would have a better chance for success, so we joined to present a larger voice. We have asked to an emergency motion for relief from the burdensome testing requirements placed on our industry. Hopefully we will receive the answer soon. Attached are FAQ’s that I have received from the group. I will continue to monitor the situation and report to you as needed.
Today (August 11) the USDA announced expanded eligibility for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The program, funded through the CARES Act and the Commodity Credit Corporation, provides direct assistance payments to eligible commodities for which significant losses occurred due to pandemic-related market disruption.Nursery and floriculture cropsare now eligible for relief. USDA also extended the application deadline to September 11. Nursery and Floriculture specific details are at https://www.farmers.gov/cfap/nursery.
CFAP Payments for Nursery Crops and Cut Flowers
CFAP payments for nursery crops and cut flowers will be based on a percentage of the producer’s wholesale value of inventory. Payments will be the sum of CARES Act payments and CCC payments as follows:
CARES Act Payments: For nursery crop and cut flower inventory that was shipped but subsequently spoiled or is unpaid due to loss of marketing channels between January 15, 2020, and April 15, 2020, the wholesale value of the inventory that was shipped that spoiled or is unpaid, multiplied by 15.55 percent; and
CCC Payments: For nursery crop and cut flower inventory that did not leave the farm between January 15, 2020, and April 15, 2020, due to a complete loss of marketing channel, the wholesale value of the inventory ready for sale that did not leave the farm by April 15, 2020, and that will not be sold due to lack of markets, multiplied by 13.45 percent.
Nursery crop and cut flower inventory that may be sold after April 15, 2020, is not eligible for CFAP.
Additional CFAP Information
Farm Service Agency staff at local USDA Service Centers will work with producers to file CFAP applications.
Visit farmers.gov/cfap for additional information on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, other eligible commodities, CFAP eligibility, payment limitations and structure, and how to apply.
Last week Thursday, the board met to discuss the opportunity to join with Michigan Farm Bureau and several Michigan Commodity organizations in a lawsuit against the State of Michigan, the Governor and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for their Emergency order on employee testing in the agriculture setting. It was decided that MGGC would join the lawsuit financially and as a plaintiff in the case. The case will be entered under the Equal Protection Claus of the Constitution as they are singling out farmworkers who have a high percentage of Latino’s. The farmworkers have a just cause and are asking for action to be taken. There are over 100 farmworkers ready to file a complaint to the State Civil Rights Commission. Ours is the only industry targeted with this action even though there has not been a significant outbreak in the industry lately. Greenhouse growers have followed the CDC guidelines and made sure our workers have been protected.
This does not mean you don’t have to have your plan ready August 10, 2020 (today) or complete the testing requirements by August 24. This will take time and hopefully we will be able to stop this overreach by the state. If you have any questions, please reach out to Cindy at 517-367-2033, firstname.lastname@example.org or me at 231-301-4888, email@example.com .
I have been notified that all the funding needed is in place, and we will move forward with the suit. I will keep you up to date as I hear more.
MDHHS Order on COVID19 Testing
By August 10 (TODAy), all agricultural and greenhouse operations are expected to have a plan in place to complete the testing, if they have 20 or more employees on one shift. We recommend that all greenhouses go ahead and develop this plan now, it does not have to be implemented until you are at the 20 employee criteria.
The suggested template for your plan is available for download here:
The MGGC board has decided that with all of the uncertainty in the world today, to cancel the annual meeting we had scheduled for October 19 in Traverse City. With the recent Executive Order issued by Governor Whitmer not allowing more than 10 people to meet at one time in the northern part of the state, we decided to cancel now and work towards a great event next year. We will let everyone know when the date and place are as soon as it is set up.
Today we are making sure you have all of the information you need to follow the latest Order affecting the greenhouse industry. We have included the state’s template that helps you have your plan ready and in your file by August 10 as required by the Order. We have also included a list of available testing labs and a link to MDARD’s form to file for assistance with the testing. If you have any needs that are not met by the links we have provided, please call Cindy at 517-367-2033 or me at 231-301-4888 and we will try to help you find what you need to be able to be prepared by the August 24th testing deadline. I will continue to work towards a more sensible way to keep our employees and families protected and keep you up to date on any changes that happen.
Stay well, Goeff
MDHHS Order on COVID19 Testing
By August 10, all agricultural and greenhouse operations are expected to have a plan in place to complete the testing, if they have 20 or more employees on one shift. We recommend that all greenhouses go ahead and develop this plan now, it does not have to be implemented until you are at the 20 employee criteria.
3. Utilize local Testing Facilities – This would utilize the employees exisiting insurance, as most are covering the cost of the test. The employee would need to report back to you with the results of the testing.
There really is not much help in the websites listed and I am trying to find a point person for questions in either MDHHS or MDARD. Neither seems to know how to answer the questions we have. I am still asking who from the industry helped them come up with their recommendations in the order. Please continue to send me your questions and suggestions that I can offer to the point person, when I get a contact.
This afternoon the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) put out an Emergency Order under MCL 333.2253 that puts Michigan rules for COVID testing beyond what any other state requires.
We had a call on this last week and I sent out a draft of their ideas for the industry. The only changes I can find are you don’t have to test anyone under 18 years of age. They really didn’t listen to any of the groups that were on the call. I am disappointed in the order putting us as an outlier in the agriculture industry with the rest of the nation. They have also singled out agriculture industries to put a burden of higher testing requirement on while ignoring any other industry. This order not only says your employees have to be tested, but also the owners and operators of greenhouses have to be tested if you have 20 or more people on any shift. You must have a plan for conducting testing consistent with the order no later than August 10, 2020. All employers and housing operators with migrant housing and places who have over 20 employees on a shift must implement the testing requirements no later than August 24, 2020.
Here is the actual wording in the Emergency order: 3.Employers and housing providers in certain agricultural settings, as defined below, must provide diagnostic testing for COVID-19 to workers or residents and adopt infection prevention measures as follows: a. All owners and operators of migrant housing camps licensed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) under Part 124 of the Public Health Code (hereafter “housing operators”) must: i. Provide testing for any resident with symptoms or suspected exposure to COVID19; ii. Provide testing for all newly arriving residents within 48 hours after arrival, unless the resident has already been tested in the 72 hours before arrival; iii. To the greatest extent possible, house newly arriving residents in a separate living unit from current residents for 14 days after arrival; iv. If housing in a separate living unit cannot be accomplished, require that newly arriving residents wear a cloth face covering at all times during the first 14 days after arrival, including in dwelling units and after work hours, except when eating, drinking, or performing personal hygiene activities or if the resident cannot medically tolerate a face covering; v. Provide a second test to newly arriving residents 10 – 14 days after arrival; vi. Conduct temperature checks of residents at least once per day; vii. Provide testing for any resident registering a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. b. All agricultural employers, as defined below, with over 20 workers on site at a time (not including the employer’s family members) must: i. Provide testing for any worker with symptoms or suspected exposure to COVID19, and ii. Provide testing for all new workers prior to beginning in-person work. iii. For the purposes of this order, “agricultural employer” (hereafter “employer”) includes:
1. All employers of migrant agriculture workers who do not live on site, including H-2A workers; 2. All employers of seasonal agriculture workers who do not live on site; 3. All owners and operators of meat, poultry, and egg processing plants; 4. All owners and operators of greenhouses.
c. All employers and housing operators in sections 3(a) and 3(b) must also complete onetime baseline testing of all current workers or residents. d. All employers and housing operators in sections 3(a) and 3(b) must implement these testing requirements as soon as practicable and no later than by August 24, 2020. e. Housing operators and employers may agree by mutual consent for an employer or housing operator to enforce some or all of the requirements in section 3(a)(i. – viii.), where more practicable in the environment. Such agreements must be in writing. f. If an individual is subject to multiple testing requirements under sections 3(a) and 3(b), an employer and housing operator may utilize one test and a documented testing result to fulfill multiple testing requirements for the same period of time. Employers must take primary responsibility for testing in this instance, unless the housing operator agrees to conduct testing by mutual consent. g. Employers and housing operators only need to provide testing to individuals ages eighteen and over. Youth under the age of eighteen are exempt from the testing requirements in this section. h. Employers and housing operators are responsible for arranging testing for workers and residents as described in this order, including specimen collection from workers, laboratory processing of the specimens, and ensuring that results are reported to state and local public health authorities. Employers and housing operators may contract with occupational health firms, medical providers, laboratories, or other vendors to complete testing as needed. Any of the responsibilities of employers or housing operators under this order may also be completed by their designees, if they have contracted with a capable entity to provide that service. These contracts must be in writing. i. Employers, housing operators, or medical providers conducting testing must provide information about the test and the consequence of not testing in the individual’s preferred language. Consent or assent must be obtained from each individual to conduct the test. Employers or housing operators may not pressure, intimidate, or otherwise coerce individuals to decline testing. j. Workers who decline testing may not conduct in-person work and, if living in a licensed migrant housing camp, must be housed in isolation housing consistent with social distancing and infection prevention measures. The worker must be informed of these requirements in the worker’s preferred language. These measures must continue until the individual is tested and receives a documented negative result. k. Employers and housing operators are responsible in the first instance for financial costs resulting from testing, though they or their designee may seek reimbursement from health insurance where applicable and may seek state assistance to conduct testing as described in section 3(l). Employers and housing operators may not pass costs along to workers, including costs uncovered by health insurance, whether in the form of direct charges or indirect charges, fees, compensation changes, or other financial means. l. Employers and housing operators facing challenges arranging testing may seek assistance to conduct testing as follows: i. Employers and housing operators seeking assistance may submit a request for testing assistance to MDHHS at MDHHS-Migrant-Affairs@michigan.gov, using the attached template; ii. MDHHS may direct requestors to testing resources available through medical providers and in the community; iii. MDHHS may alternatively provide direct assistance with supplies, specimen collection, and laboratory processing; iv. The State of Michigan will provide testing support as capacity allows. The State retains sole discretion to determine whether to fulfill requests for assistance. m. As soon as practicable and no later than August 10, 2020, employers and housing operators must complete a plan for conducting testing consistent with this order, using the attached template. Such plans must, at a minimum, identify a schedule for actions; laboratories or hospitals with which the facilities will partner; and a procedure for addressing individuals who decline testing. Those plans must be made available to MDHHS, MDARD, or the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration upon request. n. When conducting testing, employers, housing operators, or their designees must ensure that laboratory requisition forms and any other documentation includes, at a minimum, the information below. These data elements ensure that state and local public health can appropriately follow up on any positive cases identified. Laboratories must comply with existing reporting requirements, namely reporting all tests completed, both positive and negative, to the Michigan Disease Surveillance System. i. Full Name ii. Date of Birth iii. Sex iv. Race v. Ethnicity vi. Facility/Employer Address vii. Patient Telephone Number viii. Date of Sampling Event (Specimen Collection) ix. Name of Specific Laboratory Test x. Date of Laboratory Test Completed xi. Laboratory Test Results xii. Laboratory Name xiii. Laboratory License Number xiv. Name, Address, Telephone, and Fax Number of the Ordering Clinician o. Employers, housing operators, or their designees must report test results to the patient. p. An employer or housing operator that requests MDHHS assistance to comply with this order by August 11, 2020, does not receive such assistance, and cannot comply for reasons beyond its control (e.g. inadequate testing supplies) may seek a determination from MDHHS that it has not violated this order. Employers or housing operators must report to MDHHS at MDHHS-Migrant-Affairs@michigan.gov within 24 hours of their known inability to comply with their testing plan. MDHHS may, in its discretion, determine that the entity cannot comply with this order for a reason beyond its control. An entity that receives such a determination from MDHHS will not be in violation of this order. q. Employers and housing operators must maintain records of testing conducted for one year and comply with any applicable confidentiality laws. MDARD may review such records and compliance with this order during any inspection, licensing renewal, or at its discretion. MDHHS may review such records at its discretion.
You can contact MDARD at 1-800-292-3939 main line, email MDA-Info@michigan.gov or Lynn Sutfin (contact on the latest order) at 517-241-2112. The state COVID-19 email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the Director of MDHHS Robert Gordon email is BowdenA1@michigan.gov. You may want to let them how this will affect your business.
Goeff Hansen Executive Director 231-301-4888 | MainStreet@sbam.org
On Monday the Michigan Department of Agriculture hosted an online meeting with the commodities groups to discuss the Draft Public Health Order on COVID-19 Testing in Agriculture Settings. Also on the call was Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, who probably authored the draft even though they have no experience dealing with the agriculture industry. I have attached the 2020.07.24 – Draft Order Summary (5) to give everyone the chance to see what they are proposing to do to the industry. I was very disappointed with the draft because they obviously had not consulted anyone in the industry before they put together their summary. The Draft Health Order deals with migrant housing camps by ordering one-time initial testing of all residents, which was clarified to include any children that may be housed at the camps. Testing of all new residents within 48 hours of arrival to the camp, with separate housing for newly arriving residents for 14 days afterward and a second test at the end of the 14 days plus testing of anyone with exposure or symptoms. The workers could work but not around other workers for the 14 days.
They also have a section for agriculture employers with over 20 employees on-site at one time with greenhouses and indoor nurseries listed as employer types listed. They would require a one-time initial testing of all workers, as well as testing of all new workers prior to in-person work which would mean you would have to wait for a clear result on the test before they can work. This may mean 5-7 days before the test results are available and the employer would have to pay the worker during the wait time. They suggest two options for testing. The employer can contract with any capable medical provider, occupational health provider or laboratory to arrange for a testing program in which the cost would be born by the employer or request state assistance to conduct the testing or provide testing supplies.
As an industry we have been very vigilant in preparing employees and staff for dealing with the COVID virus, providing PPE as well as sanitizing in the work environment and I am afraid they are going to pile more regulations on the industry again even though we have not had a serious outbreak. When asked who would monitor compliance, they stated that MDARD, MDHHS, or LEO could ask for your records on testing and compliance. This is a huge change from the past when MDARD was the lead agency and we knew what to expect from them. Adding the two other departments will only create chaos for the greenhouse industry. We want everyone to stay safe but don’t need to add more rules on top of the ones we already have in place that are working.
MGGC was asked to testify on the effects of the Governor’s EO’s on the greenhouse industry by the Chair of the House Agriculture at a joint meeting of the Agriculture and Commerce committees on June 23rd. Chris Schwartz and I gave an overview of the problems that were created by the EO and the lack of information we received on when and if our retail outlets would be able to sell the products that were ready to be shipped. We also brought up the fact that Michigan was an outlier in the nation in not recognizing that greenhouses and retail sales were essential services like all but one state did. The Spring/ Easter plant problems were brought up with the fact that greenhouses were essential but retail was not created a huge problem for the greenhouses that specialized in these products. MGGC’s communication and media campaign was brought up as our successful answer to getting the Governor to relax the shutdown on retail sales for the industry and keeping our retailers from having more of a crisis season. Several of the lawmakers commented on the quality of the presentation by Chris. Thank you and great job Chris!
Today the Governor put out an Executive order making all retailers deny entrance to anyone not wearing a mask and putting a misdemeanor charge and $500 fine for someone not wearing a mask in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. Businesses must refuse entry to those not wearing a mask and may be subject to their license being pulled if they don’t. There was no penalty for violating the order before. We are at a point that we don’t want to regress into having businesses closed again for a spike in the cases of COVID so make sure you have everything you need to keep your employees and customers safe and healthy. If you need any PPE, check the SBAM website or call us for supplies. SBAM has many suppliers listed that will have what you need.
On Monday the Detroit Free Press did a hit piece on one of the industry leaders about migrant labor. The article was totally slanted and written for the workers and they only looked at their side of the issue. There may be more articles so be ready for questions about labor from the press.
We will be sending out the sign up soon for the MGGC annual meeting in Traverse City at the Park Place Hotel. We have a great line up of speakers for the event and it is a great opportunity to network with the state leaders in the industry. Make sure you put October 19-21 on your schedule to hold the date!
I hope everyone is having a healthy and prosperous summer. Don’t hesitate to call if you have questions or issues we can assist you with.
This week MGGC joined AmericanHort and numerous others around the nation in sending a letter to USDA requesting to be added to the CFAP relief program. We have asked for relief for a 3 month period between January 15, 2020 and April 15, for serious economic harm from 2020 COVID-19 related disruption of the market chain during this time. The nursery and floriculture sector represents one third of the value of all specialty crops but we were not included in the original USDA-FSA direct payment relief. The letter explains the losses and gives some ideas for identifying crop values for the program. This is an interesting read so I have included the full letter here Nursery-Floriculture Comment Letter on USDA CFAP NOFA_Final_0622202.
The Michigan cases of COVID-19 continue to remain low but there is a concern of a second wave of infections as other states have had a large increase in cases in the past couple of weeks. The total number of cases in the state has risen to 61,630, including 5,864 deaths. Our state doesn’t rank in the top 10 for cases any longer but the Governor is not ready to move to stage 5 and allow more businesses to re-open. I have had reports from some members who have had employees with positive tests so we have to stay vigilant with our precaution. If you are having any difficulty finding PPE products you can visit the SBAM website (sbam.org) , call Cindy at 517-367-2033 or me at 231-301-4888 and we will try to help find what you need.
Please do not hesitate to call me or Cindy with any questions or if something arises you need some help with for your business. We can help with issues or steer you to someone who can help you work through them.
Mark your calendars for October 19th – 21st for our first ever destination annual meeting in Traverse City at the Park Place Hotel! We have a great line up of speakers and it is a great time to network with other industry leaders. Watch your emails for the invites soon.