On March 17, additional steps were announced to slow the spread of COVID-19. Per the delivery of Emergency Order #5, the Farm Bureau office will remain open in Madison; however, it will be closed to all visitors, including Farm Bureau members. Only staff who are unable to work from home and those carrying out essential services are allowed. WFBF staff are still working to serve members to be best of their abilities.
Farm Bureau is encouraging its members to follow Center for Disease Control and Department of Health Services recommendations. Per Emergency Order #5, gatherings with 10 people or more have been prohibited. WFBF’s 61 county Farm Bureaus control their meetings. To know if a meeting has been canceled, postponed or is being held via conference call, contact your county Farm Bureau president or visit wfbf.com.
“We have taken precautions such as asking our district coordinators to join meetings remotely to protect our staff and members,” said WFBF President Joe Bragger. “We have also canceled our IGNITE conference and the Institute D.C. trip scheduled for the end of the month.”
WFBF acknowledges that there are many unknowns for farmers and rural communities during this time. To amplify resources, WFBF has reached out to key stakeholders for information farmers should have on hand.
“Farmers can’t just stop doing business because of the Coronavirus,” said Bragger. “We are pleased that for right now many businesses that farmers work with are taking precautions but not stopping business completely. Our farmers need access to supplies and their markets.”
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has a COVID-19 Toolkit on its website. You can find the link to the PDF of the Toolkit on the top section of this link: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/News_Media/Covid19.aspx. This toolkit includes a checklist that farmers should review for their own businesses.
In addition, all state agencies are updating resources on COVID-19 here: http://govstatus.egov.com/wi-covid-19.
“During this time of many unknowns we realize that farmers will face challenges. We ask farmers to be patient with businesses’ decisions to protect employees by modifying hours or protocols,” added Bragger. “Be proactive to the best of your ability. Call the folks you work with to see how things are changing so that you can be prepared. I like to say, plan for the worst and hope for the best and, that’s exactly what we should be doing right now.”
Farmers are encouraged to call ahead for all appointments to be sure that they can still be accommodated. Agencies, such as FSA, are open for business but are taking precautions in how they conduct business to keep employees and customers safe.
“During a time where we are already talking about farmer mental health and rural resiliency, I encourage you to still check on your neighbors,” said Bragger. “No longer with an in-person visit but a phone call, email or text. It can go a long way in making sure we all get through this together.”
Wisconsin Farm Bureau will continue to share resources as available. County Farm Bureau leaders have been receiving updates so members can contact their county board members for information as well.
“I want to thank all the people who are working hard to keep things running, especially our health care workers,” said Bragger. “These people deserve our utmost gratitude during this time when the spotlight is directed at them and the pressure is high.”