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Disruption of lives from the coronavirus disrupts Napa Valley agriculture

About the author

Ryan Klobas is the CEO of the Napa County Farm Bureau and Napa County Farm Bureau Foundation, representing Napa County’s oldest and largest agricultural organization.

Read other perspectives on business recovery during the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic impact to Napa Valley’s agricultural sector affecting not only agriculture itself, but more importantly the men and women of Napa Valley agriculture who work tirelessly in support of a strong and viable agricultural economy in Napa Valley.

The Napa County Farm Bureau has worked vigorously to appropriately address COVID-19 and the impacts it has had on agricultural workers and their families. As we continue to address this most important issue in Napa Valley, there are several keys to recovery that we must recognize.

The Napa County Farm Bureau is the oldest and largest agricultural organization in Napa County representing well over 1,000 members. At the outset of the pandemic, our organization quickly developed a set of COVID-19 resources for members to immediately assist them in handling the coronavirus. We created a daily stream of information to our members about COVID-19 best safety practices in the workplace, created safety training material for farm workers, educated about how to comply with regulatory requirements, educated about workers’ rights related to COVID-19, best health practices at work and at home, how to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace, created a COVID-19 toolkit for employers and employees, as well as TV and radio public service announcements not only for our ag workers, but for the community as a whole.

One of the greatest impacts COVID-19 has had is to the agricultural workforce and balancing the need for adequate, rapid testing versus the need to maintain a steady workforce which is able to work during harvest, one of the busiest times of the year for Napa Valley agriculture. Many employers have had difficulty maintaining an appropriate workforce due to significant delays in getting COVID-19 results returned which, in turn, makes it difficult to plan projects during harvest. To remedy this situation, the Napa County Farm Bureau immediately partnered with a COVID-19 medical testing company to provide Farm Bureau members with COVID-19 test results in 24 hours, which has made a significant improvement in the ability to continue harvest throughout Napa Valley.

As we have progressed through the pandemic, we have created changes intended to be longstanding in the agricultural community in order to protect the health and welfare of our workers and ensure that their safety is paramount. The latest recommendations from the CDC, CalOSHA, US Centers for Disease Control and the UC Davis Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety are being implemented by members as long-term best practices in the workplace to mitigate COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible.

In addition to ensuring that best safety practices are adhered to, one of the most important steps to long term recovery is education. Education about COVID-19 transmission, the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask and to not attend large gatherings is key to ensuring we have a long-term recovery solution. While best safety practices are constantly being followed in the workplace, the area of concern then becomes actions that are taken outside of work with friends and family. It is key that we continue educational efforts to ensure that best safety practices are followed just as stringently at home as they are at work.

Ryan Klobas, J.D., Napa County Farm Bureau CEO
Ryan Klobas, J.D., Napa County Farm Bureau CEO

Combining rapid testing for employers and employees with effective educational efforts are vital to ensuring long-term recovery in Napa Valley. Another key to success is partnering with our local county officials who have worked diligently to ensure Napa County remains on a path to long-term recovery. Napa County is fortunate to have local elected leaders and public health officials who realize the importance of recovery in the agricultural sector and work constantly to ensure that ag businesses are successful in their efforts to ensure health and safety and a long-term recovery.

According to recent economic impact analyses, the direct economic impact of COVID-19 on the agricultural sector in California is estimated between $5.9 billion and $8.6 billion this year. Preliminary Economic Development Department (EDD) data shows that April employment was down 13.4 percent, or 2.4 million jobs for the agricultural sector statewide. Implementing the appropriate best safety practices and working to ensure that our chief focus is long-term recovery will be the overall key to success in ensuring Napa Valley agriculture survives the impacts of the pandemic and continues to be a world-class model for others to follow.

Napa Farm Bureau maintains online up-to-date resources and to learn more about COVID-19 best practices.

About the author

Ryan Klobas is the CEO of the Napa County Farm Bureau and Napa County Farm Bureau Foundation, representing Napa County’s oldest and largest agricultural organization.

Read other perspectives on business recovery during the coronavirus pandemic.

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