IDFA Pleased that White House, Federal Agencies Confirm Food Industry is a “Critical Infrastructure Industry”; Additional Guidance Needed

WASHINGTON — Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), released the following statement today:

“On behalf of the nation’s dairy industry, the International Dairy Foods Association is grateful that the Administration confirmed yesterday that the food and agricultural industry is one of the nation’s critical infrastructure industries. Additionally, IDFA was pleased to see the U.S. Department of Agriculture issue a proactive statement underscoring that the Department will work to maintain continued access to food and will fulfill its mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply during these extraordinary times.

“The White House issued The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America – 15 Days to Slow the Spread yesterday, with 7 general rules to slow the spread of COVID-19. The White House document recognizes food as one of the nation’s critical infrastructure industries: ‘If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services, pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule. You and your employers should follow CDC guidance to protect your health at work.’

“Later in the afternoon, in a statement to industry from Dr. Mindy Brashears, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, and Greg Ibach, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, USDA said, ‘It is more important than ever that we assure the American public that government and industry will take all steps necessary to ensure continued access to safe and wholesome USDA-inspected products. … As we come together as a country to address this public health threat, know that USDA remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply and protecting agricultural health.’ (link)

“Further, in various communications, the Department of Homeland Security also clearly recognizes 16 critical infrastructure sectors ‘whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof,’ according to a DHS fact sheet on Critical Infrastructure Sectors. From these public communications, it is clear that the food industry, including our dairy industry, is one of the nation’s critical infrastructure industries, which ensures certain safeguards for the food industry and its workforce from disruptions related to federal and state efforts to protect public health during the COVID-19 response.

“As the White House document states, the food industry ‘also has a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule,’ which underscores the need for our industry to continue to closely collaborate with federal and state officials to remove potential bottlenecks for our workforce, to our supply chains, to our inputs stream, and our transportation networks, among others.

“Based on critical lessons learned from other nations and regions, including our dairy industry partners in the European Union and Canada, it is essential that our federal government now begin to lay out a strategy for ensuring the continued operation of the 16 Critical Infrastructure Industries. After speaking with the EU and Canada about impacts to their own dairy industries, we must prioritize the safety and availability of our workforce, ensuring transportation routes remain open, and providing a viable market or market alternatives for our nation’s dairy products.  

“At the present, IDFA is collaborating with many other food industry trade groups to bring the following issues and concerns to the Administration for action and consideration:

  1. Workforce: Ensure workforce continue to have access to food production and distribution facilities
  2. Services: Continuity of waste management services, energy and utilities services, and telecommunications and internet
  3. Transportation: For trucking and rail service, ensure inbound and outbound transportation routes are not impeded for any reason, including potential curfew or quarantine orders; for ports, ensure ports remain open and functional for imports and exports; for all transportation, provide access to refrigerated containers, trailers and pallets
  4. Borders: Ensure border inspection facilities prioritize entry of foodstuffs and have mechanisms in place to allow drivers and vehicles expedited screening and entry
  5. Manufacturing: Ensure food production facilities have access to inputs; provide a plan to standardize safety of operations in production facilities; confirm the federal government will have enough inspectors and other government officials who are essential to the production or movement of food

“We are amid extraordinary circumstances which require an extraordinary response. We know from other nations managing COVID-19 responses that things may indeed get worse before they get better, and it is absolutely essential that our federal government now begin to lay out a strategy for ensuring the continued operation of the nation’s Critical Infrastructure Industries, including food and agriculture. Our nation’s dairy industry is critical to our nation’s food security, and we are ready to do our part to continue to contribute to our nation’s food security. We are grateful for your work to safeguard dairy, to the best of your ability, from significant supply chain disruptions in the weeks and months ahead.”

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The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industry, which supports more than 3 million jobs that generate $159 billion in wages and $620 billion in overall economic impact. IDFA’s diverse membership ranges from multinational organizations to single-plant companies, from dairy companies and cooperatives to food retailers and suppliers, all on the cutting edge of innovation and sustainable business practices. Together, they represent 90 percent of the milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and cultured products, and dairy ingredients produced and marketed in the United States and sold throughout the world. Delicious, safe and nutritious, dairy foods offer unparalleled health and consumer benefits to people of all ages.