Farmers face busy season with new coronavirus restrictions

Farmers across the Willamette Valley are preparing for the busy summer growing and harvest season, made more complicated by new coronavirus-related guidelines.

Posted: May 27, 2020 6:13 PM

TANGENT, Ore. -- Farmers across the Willamette Valley are preparing for the busy summer growing and harvest season, made more complicated by new coronavirus-related guidelines.

Grass seed farmer Brian Glaser plans to have around 10 employees this summer. He said guidelines from various agencies are coming out and changing regularly.

"When do I have time to keep up on the new changes that are coming down when you are already burning the candle at both ends?" he said.

One such example is Oregon OSHA's temporary regulations for labor-intensive farm operations, which will go into effect on June 1. Among the rules are social distancing requirements, additional bathrooms and sanitization stations and identifying an employee social distancing officer in charge of meeting these requirements.

Glaser said these requirements may be a drain on money and time, which for many farmers is already tight.

"We want to do the right thing," he said. "We want to protect our employees, but we have a job to get done. There's a balance there, and hopefully, we can all figure out how to migrate through that."

RELATED: Free protective gear available for Oregon farmers this week

The state is trying to assist farmers with this challenge by distributing around 1 million KN95 masks and 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to farmers across the state for no extra cost. The state said KN95 masks will be effective at protecting agricultural workers and are not meant for use in medical settings.

Farmers in Benton and Linn counties were able to pick up masks and hand sanitizer at OSU's Benton County Extention Wednesday. Officials were trying to give out 60,000 masks and said that interested farmers formed a long line in the morning.

"There is a large agriculture community that is desperate for this (personal protective equipment)," said Linn County Extension local liaison Michele Webster. "Resources are really hard to come by and they are highly needed at this time."

Farmers in Lane County can receive masks at the fairgrounds Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Masks will be distributed in Douglas and Coos County at 333 NE Jackson Street in Roseburg at the same time. 

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