By Randy Gordon, President and CEO
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (DHS-CISA) on April 17 issued an update of its list of critical infrastructure workers, including those involved in food and agriculture, as part of its continuing COVID-19 pandemic efforts to encourage states and localities to recognize the importance of continuity of business of various functions “critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.”
Most of the changes in the latest update – designated as Version 3.0 – are not substantive, and merely “clean up” some of the verbiage contained in the previous Version 2.0 issued on March 28. The NGFA had ensured the inclusion of human food, animal food/pet food and pet supply and distribution activities in the initial version of the CISA “Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19 Response” issued on March 23.
In the latest version, for instance, the “grain and oilseed handling, storage, processing and distribution” sector still is specifically referenced, but the term “storage” was added. Also specifically still included are “fuel ethanol facilities, biodiesel and renewable diesel facilities,” “agricultural input” and “seed” suppliers, and manufacturers of animal feed, pet food and ingredients for animal food.
Sectors of agriculture newly added to the latest version include specific references to “aquaculture” and to workers “supporting the growth and distribution of plants and associated products for home gardens.” Other changes to the latest version are intended to clarify the need for freedom of movement for critical infrastructure workers.
As with previous versions, the DHS-CISA memorandum is “advisory in nature” and not a “federal directive.” It is intended to advise and guide states, localities and other governmental entities “as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions (including food and agriculture) critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.” DHS-CISA and other federal agencies proactively have distributed the memorandum to state governors, mayors and localities. DHS-CISA Director Chris Krebs indicated this week that 33 of 42 states that have implemented “stay-at-home,” “shelter-in-place” or other restricted-movement orders have adopted the CISA guidance exempting critical infrastructure workers (including those in food and agriculture) from such movement restrictions.