COVID-19 & Maine Agriculture FAQ
Got questions about COVID-19 and Maine agriculture? Ask our experts!
If you have a question, you are welcome to
- Call or e-mail your local UMaine Extension county office.
- Submit your questions using our online form. Answers to selected questions are posted below.
Q: Can I still get my soil sample analyzed? (3/30/2020)
A: Yes, the UMaine Analytical Lab is open, but is encouraging folks to mail samples to the lab. – Donna Coffin, Extension Professor Piscataquis County, firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: I usually sell my meat and eggs at a farmers’ market that is now closed, how can I let customers know I have agriculture products to sell? (3/30/2020)
A: Maine Extension started an Available Local Maine Farm Products and Seafood and Alternative Pick-Up Options Directory that farmers, fishers, and value-added producers can list what they have available and the methods customers can access their products. – Donna Coffin, Extension Professor, email@example.com
Q: My farm usually only wholesales, but we lost our markets due to the virus and are considering trying out some kind of retail marketing. How are other farmers handling this? (3/30/2020)
A: You can find a number of resources on the UMaine Extension website, as compiled by the Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine. You can now also see the initial results of a statewide farmer survey indicating how they are making changes and what they are struggling with. – Tori Jackson, Extension Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources, firstname.lastname@example.org
A: Check out this clear and concise list of steps for growers and market managers to put in place to minimize the risk of spreading the disease. (Prepared by UVM Extension). This list includes tested and approved sanitizers for cleaning surfaces. More Maine specific recommendations can be found here at the Beginning Farmer Resource Network’s COVID-19 Information and Support for Maine Farmers – Jason Lilley, Sustainable Agriculture Professional, email@example.com
Q: My lambs aren’t gaining weight; I think they have worms. How can I find out if I should treat them? (3/30/20)
A: The UM Veterinary diagnostic lab is still able to help with livestock health questions, like testing fecal samples for parasites. Check their site (http://umaine.edu/veterinarylab/) for more information. – Anne Lichtenwalner DVM Ph.D., Associate Professor of Animal and Veterinary Science, firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: What resources are available to businesses that are continuing to employ individuals? We are a local food distribution company. I’ve heard rumors of assistance for personnel and rent costs. Thank you for any info you may have! (3/21/20)
A: In the recently signed US stimulus package there are low-interest loans for small businesses that convert to grants if specific criteria are met through the outbreak (the Paycheck Protection Program administered by the Small Business Administration). Their website provides more info on the amount of the loan that can be forgiven and the requirements that have to be met. The money can be used for payroll and operating expenses and will be available through your local bank. I suggest you check with your loan officer. This is a first come first serve program, however, the governmental forms are not yet available. But you can get a head start on knowing if your bank will be processing this stimulus money. Additional resources: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act and Coronavirus Emergency Loans: Small Business Guide and Checklist. – Rebecca Long, Agriculture and Food Systems Professional, email@example.com & Mark Hutchinson, Extension Professor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Update 4/3/20: Friday, April 3, 2020: Applications can begin for small businesses and sole proprietorships through existing SBA 7(a) lenders. Friday, April 10, 2020: Applications begin for independent contractors and self-employed individuals through existing SBA 7(a) lenders. ***Please contact your lender immediately, as funding is limited.
Q: Is there guidance for farmer’s markets opening soon? (4/1/20)
A: Gary Fish, State Horticulturist for DACF provided this guidance for farmers’ markets. – Dave Fuller, Agriculture, and Non-Timber Forest Products Professional IV, email@example.com
Q: I grow strawberries. If I find out after the fact that a picker has COVID-19 and the strawberries are contaminated, what should I do with the strawberries? (4/1/20)
A: In short, there is no need to destroy the strawberries. The farmer’s largest concern should be to avoid workers’ person-to-person contamination since this is the only 100% known form of transmission so far. Since FDA is not requiring a recall, we can extrapolate that there is no need to throw it out. To be extra cautious, if the farmer makes any added value products, he could use the strawberries picked by a sick employee to make jams or jellies, etc. The processing of those products will certainly kill the virus. In addition, there is a lot of information floating around about how long the virus can survive on surfaces. The problem with that data is that being able to detect the virus on surfaces does not mean that the virus is active. The most common techniques for virus detection cannot make a difference between viable and non-viable viruses since they are only looking for the virus’ RNA molecule. RNA can be present but just as debris from inactive viruses. Answer references information from the FDA FAQ page. – Robson Machado, Ph.D., Assistant Extension Professor, and Food Scientist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Can I take a pesticide exam? (4/3/20)
A: The Board of Pesticides is temporarily suspending all pesticide certification exams. You can still earn credits online, including newly added options, to maintain existing certification. – Rebecca Long, Agriculture and Food Systems Professional, email@example.com
Q: Should I use soap to wash the fruits and vegetables I purchase? (4/7/20)
A: No, soap is only recommended for non-porous surfaces such as countertops. Soap should not be ingested and if you use it to wash fruits and produce there is a risk of ingestion. – Robson Machado, Assistant Extension Professor, and Food Scientist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Are there any grants for us very small farm operations in the COVID-19 bill that they just passed? (4/7/20)
A: The Maine Dept. of Ag has a site with information about Farm Finance including the SBA Payroll Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Program. No out right grants. In my last Ag newsletter, I had information about a $500 grant from FACT for livestock farms. – Donna Coffin, Extension Professor, email@example.com
Q: Which platform should I use to sell my products online? (4/17/20)
A: There are lots of options, many are on our list of e-commerce and other alternative marketing ideas for farms. The page also includes the contact info for several service providers offering guidance for farmers setting up online sales. – Donna Coffin, Extension Professor, firstname.lastname@example.org