Nebraska farmers, ranchers asked to prepare for virus threat

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KCAU) – Nebraska Farm Bureau has advised farmers, ranchers to understand the full risk continued spread of COVID-19 poses to their communities and agricultural operations.

Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau President, said the spread of the virus isn’t just a concern for areas of the state with a high-density population. Nebraska farm and ranch operators need to be ready to deal with possible ramifications of continued spread.

“Make no mistake, the potential for the spread of COVID-19 to rural areas is real,” Nelson said “It’s especially serious considering the unique challenges rural hospitals and health care providers may face in treating and containing the virus. It’s imperative we all do our part to try and slow the spread of this highly contagious disease.”

The Nebraska Farm Bureau said it’s imperative agricultural producers do their part to help maintain the nation’s food supply.

“There’s no reason for panic, but every reason to plan ahead and be prepared,” Nelson said.

Nebraska Farm Bureau developed a preparedness list for agricultural workers which includes:

  • Protect personal health of farm/ranch owner/operators and employees.
    • Personal health is an important first step. Washing hands frequently, disinfecting shared surfaces, and making sure soap and other sanitization supplies are available to employees is a key first step. Strengthening immune systems by taking vitamins and making good food choices is another way to stay healthy. For example, beef is a good source of zinc that keeps immune systems strong. Doing business over the phone or online when possible can help limit in-person visits and potential exposure.
  • Plan for possible labor shortages.
    • Ask yourself – what is my plan if my farm help can only work limited hours due to school closings or other events? Are there things my employees can do remotely via technology if they can’t be there in person? Do I have others who can help if my current labor force is unavailable?
  • Plan for possible supply/input shortages.
    • Do I have a backup for feed, fuel, and other inputs in the event my normal channels or supply lines are disrupted? Do I have enough supplies on-hand to weather short-term disruptions? Do I have enough on-farm storage capacity for fuel and other inputs if there is an extended shortage?
  • Communicate with those with whom you do business. 
    • Stay in close contact with your business partners – including both input suppliers and those to whom you sell commodities and products. Doing so will give you the best information to make decisions. Are processors, co-ops, etc., accepting delivery? Are they running normal schedules and hours?
  • Communicate any disruptions.
    • If you experience or hear of disruptions in supply chains alert Nebraska Farm Bureau immediately via email at information@nefb.org. Nebraska Farm Bureau will continue to exchange information with state and federal officials focused on addressing disruptions and maintaining a safe food supply.

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The CDC said that most COVID-19 illnesses are mild, but about 16% of cases are serious. Older people or those with underlying health conditions are most at risk of developing a serious illness.

Symptoms for the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. They occur 2-14 days after exposure. Anyone that develops the symptoms and has been in contact with some who has the virus or has recently traveled from where the virus is widespread is asked to see a doctor.

To help prevent the spread, people are asked to do the following:

  • Wash their hands often
  • Avoid close contact
  • Stay home if sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Below are various health organizations with information on COVID-19.

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