Key points and resources to keep vegetable farms running during novel coronavirus

In this constantly changing environment, here are some resources to help produce farms run while keeping personnel and plants healthy.

Man bending down in field

This information is current as of May 19, 2020.

The current environment is ever-changing, as each state takes different routes in response to the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes the infectious disease COVID-19. Michigan State University Extension’s vegetable team has compiled useful resources for Michigan vegetable growers.

MSU services

Working with your local MSU Extension educator

Due to current travel restrictions and safety guidelines, MSU Extension has modified how we work with our clientele. We are still here to provide the information and resources you need, just in different ways than we have in the past. Per the governor’s “Safer at Home” executive order and MSU guidelines, MSU Extension is only allowing essential travel, which is being granted on a limited basis to scout for pests and deal with time-sensitive issues. Reach out to your local MSU Extension educator if you have questions and they will work with you to address your questions

MSU Plant & Pest Diagnostics Lab

Effective March 25, 2020, MSU’s Plant & Pest Diagnostics will no longer be accepting drop-off samples or walk-in consultations. We are still processing mail-in samples and can be reached via email at pestid@msu.edu.

For plant health assessment samples and insect and plant identification, please send a preliminary email to pestid@msu.edu with digital images to see if a diagnosis/identification can be made without a physical sample. Please remember to photograph the injury symptoms both up close and at a distance, as well as include details on any patterns, timing, chemical applications, etc. This is the same information typically requested on the submittal form.

If you plan to submit a nematode soil sample, physical plant health sample or we request a physical sample by U.S. mail, please email us so we are aware your package is coming. Please do not ship samples on Fridays, and whenever possible use the U.S. Postal Service. Also, please include the submittal form in your package.

Due to the current circumstances, please allow additional processing time. Thank you for your understanding.

MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab

The Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab continues to operate during this time and results are going out within 10 days of receipt. Customers will be unable to secure soil test boxes from their county Extension offices due to closures related to novel coronavirus; instead they can mail their samples in Ziploc bags directly to the lab. Print off the information sheet from the website to accompany the samples along with a check made out to MSU for the correct amount from the fee schedule.

In situations critical to essential services, where farmers cannot wait for the additional processing time by mail, Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab samples can be dropped off at the loading dock on the south side of the Plant and Soil Sciences Building, 1066 Bogue St. East Lansing, MI 48834. Samples must be left on the designated cart on the loading dock. Submission forms can be found on the cart and samples that are not in pre-paid Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory soil boxes will be billed after sample completion.

Agriculture and Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order

Farmworkers are essential employees and allowed to continue work under the state of Michigan’s executive order dated March 19, 2020. Employers can provide employees with “in-transit” letters plus a copy of Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MDARD) executive order identifying them as being engaged in essential work, providing the farm’s contact information and including MDARD’s clarification on the executive orderMichigan Farm Bureau (MFB) has detailed what to include in letters and provided templates.

For Spanish language version of these letters, the MFB Farm Employee Communication Template and the Michigan Agri-Business Association Farm Employee In-Transit have been translated by Michigan Food and Farming Systems.

MDARD has also arranged for Restricted Use Pesticide alternative test-taking for private applicators.

MSU Extension has recorded reviews of  the core manual to help test-takers prepare

Pesticide applicator’s with RUP licenses that expired on Dec. 31, 2019 have had their licenses have been deemed unexpired until “60 days after the end of the declared states of emergency and disaster.” For full details and an explainer, see Michigan pesticide applicators receive temporary emergency license extension.

H-2A information

Keeping farm personnel healthy

Resources for communicating with workers and tools to help them with the correct practices (as of April 2, 2020).

Business operations

Industry groups and nonprofit groups providing resources

Modifying direct marketing practices

Navigating COVID-19 related legislation and programs

General information on COVID-19

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