Date: Jul 15, 2020
Magazine:
July/August 2020

Western Growers has stepped up as an effective advocate for our members in response to the immediate challenges presented by COVID-19, helping to shape the emergency response at the federal and state level.

H-2A Program: When the State Department suspended regular visa processing at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and all U.S. consulates in Mexico early in the pandemic, Western Growers pushed the Administration for an expansion of interview waiver eligibility to ensure that the majority of H-2A processing continued uninterrupted.

Federal Relief: When the foodservice industry collapsed as a result of the nationwide shutdown orders, Western Growers advocated for immediate federal relief in the form of direct payments and an expanded commodity purchase program, which resulted in the crucial elements of the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

Small Businesses: When agriculture was virtually shut out from the first round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and was excluded altogether from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, Western Growers stepped in and helped secure greater inclusion for the industry in the second round of small business relief.

Business Liability Protections: Recognizing that essential businesses face unique liability concerns while remaining open during COVID-19, Western Growers has advocated at both the federal and state level for targeted liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits for agriculture and other essential businesses.

State Advocacy: Western Growers has proactively addressed numerous coronavirus-related concerns with the Newsom administration, including dedicated resources for childcare for essential workers and state support in securing PPE for farmworkers, outreaches that have yielded positive results for our members and their employees.

Transportation: Western Growers has worked to keep the flow of goods moving uninterrupted during the pandemic, intervening with the Federal Maritime Commission to end unfair port detention and demurrage charges, and with the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration to secure greater driver flexibility and cost savings without compromising road safety.

Food Safety: Western Growers has developed an interactive website to facilitate changes to the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA)-approved Leafy Green Food Safety Guidelines, which now allows the public to participate in routine discussions and process amendments that will ensure continuous improvement of leafy green food safety preventive practices.

Innovation: Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology (WGCIT) has launched an Innovating in Challenging Times webinar series to demonstrate how technological development continues to advance during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Consumer Outreach: In an effort to highlight the extraordinary responses of our members to the COVID-19 crisis, Western Growers launched the #AgIsEssential social media campaign, which has reached more than 2 million consumers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. In a series of selfie-style videos and compelling infographics, the campaign has shared positive messages about the role of agriculture in providing a safe, secure and healthy food supply in the midst of the pandemic.

Member Resources for Current and Reliable COVID-19 Information

To assist in the delivery of critical and timely information, Western Growers has developed a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate COVID-19 Resource website, which can be found at: https://www.wga.com/covid-19-resources-page.

All of our members and partners are encouraged to utilize this hub to help keep their businesses moving forward. Key resources include:

•   Western Growers-developed webinars and guidance documents, including best practices and prevention measures

•   How to access federal relief funding

•   New employer mandates; e.g. paid sick time and paid medical family leave

•   Federal and state employer guidance

•   Important documents; e.g. education posters, model notices of employee rights, template SOPs

•   Additional resources related to PPE, Child Care, Workers’ Comp, and more

Western Growers has a full team of experts on staff dedicated to gathering, reviewing and analyzing the latest COVID-19 information so our grower and handler members can be fully prepared with the knowledge they need to make informed business decisions.

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Western Growers members care deeply for the food they grow, the land they sustain, the people they employ, and the community in which they live. 

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