Farmers across Washington are under new coronavirus guidelines, via Governor Jay Inslee’s Proclamation 20-57. Many in the Ag community are not happy with the new guidelines, or the way they were established.

Bre Elsey, Director of Government Affairs with the Washington Farm Bureau said one of the biggest challenges will be wash station requirements, especially in the state’s tree fruit industry. And while documentation released by Labor and Industries earlier this week relaxed some of the specifications, many questions remain.

“Let’s say an L&I enforcement officer comes to your farm at 8 a.m., and your water isn’t above 60 degrees.  Are you now going to be subject to that new $10,000 fine?  And even in the L&I clarification documents, they never really get to some of these details that farmers need to be successful.”

Other questions focus on PPE requirements, and what happens to farmers that cannot find supplies that are already in high demand. Elsey added Washington Farm Bureau as well as commodity organizations were part of the initial conversation regarding worker coronavirus safety. However, the Governor, she noted, ignored all of the requests and recommendations made by the farm community.

Elsey added it’s become clear that Proclamation 20-57 sets Washington farmers up to fail.

“And really, isn’t that the whole point of public notice?  When you have a major rule that’s going to be implemented, you want to give the public notice, that that is coming down the pike.  To not give the public notice means you are knowingly setting them up for failure.  Without organizations like Washington Farm Bureau, and other notifying employers that these major changes are at them, how would they know to be in compliance?”

Elsey said many Washington farmers simply cannot meet the requirements laid out by Governor Inslee.

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