Michigan Farmers Still Plowed Under By COVID Rules
Michigan’s larger family owned farms and the state’s big commercial agricultural spreads won’t be spared from this week’s relaxation of virus orders by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. They’ve been hit hard by the virus orders issued by the Governor. Many of those orders have been costly and burdensome to farm operations. Some of the most severe will continue to hamper AG businesses in Michigan into the summer and fall.
Michigan Farm News reports farmers who use field workers must continue to provide isolation housing those those who need a temporary residence. And virus testing must still be done for people working at many of the state’s farmsdespite the requirement being ended for nearly all other businesses.
Rex Schultz owns Heritage Blueberries in West Michigan. He tells Farm News he definitely believes farms are being targeted and that’s how farm workers feel. He says the worker virus testing requirements imposed by the Governor will continue to impact farms from being able to field full crews for fruit and vegetable harvests this year.
“We got the press release from MDHHS (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) and I’m saying, ‘wow this is almost as bad as last year if not worse. A big concern is how many workers are we going to end up with now because we’ll be ready to harvest here in a couple of weeks.”
Schultz says potential new farm workers this year are specifically asking about whether the virus testing process is going to be continued again this year. He has to tell them yes it is. Last year, Schultz was only able to hire about a quarter of his normal farm worker total to harvest berries. The state’s virus controls he says played a big role in that reduced number. He had to rely mainly on mechanical harvesting. The cost of that process is significantly higher, cutting well into an already slim profit margin.