WASHINGTON — In a letter to vendors the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) outlined what operations will be allowed in areas affected by shelter-in-residence directives. The letter was issued March 25 by David Tuckwiller, deputy administrator, commodity procurement, at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

The letter noted that many cities and states have directed that individuals shelter at their place of residence to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Exemptions are extended to persons leaving their residences to provide or receive essential services, or to engage in certain essential services and work for an essential business or government agency. The letter also asserted that activities supporting critical federal infrastructure sectors as defined by the Department of Homeland Security preempt any conflicting city or state provision.

Tuckwiller said the USDA has identified which department functions are performing an essential service or activity, and thus will continue during shelter-in-residence directives. They include:

  1. Food Safety and Inspection Service: Meat, poultry, swine and egg inspection and related laboratory services.
  2. Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service: Inspection of live plants and animals; managing animal and plant disease programs; veterinary, aviation and laboratory services in support of these operations.
  3. Agricultural Marketing Service: Commodity grading, commodity procurement, market news, and protecting fair agriculture trade performed by employees in the AMS.
  4. Farm Service Agency: Farm loan and farm disaster and loss programs to ensure farmers can continue operations.
  5. Natural Resources Conservation Service: Flood prevention and watershed operations, protection of plants and vegetation for long-term research studies, and conservation payments for farms and ranches.
  6. Forest Service: Law enforcement, wildland firefighting, and other functions supporting protection of public safety at national forests.
  7. Agricultural Research Service: Animal caretaking and preservation of research property. Support services needed to provide the functions listed above.

“Failure to provide the services outlined above could jeopardize US agriculture, food safety, and food production and supply and adversely affect the health, welfare and safety of the public,” Tuckwiller said.

“This information is being furnished to USDA/AMS contractors to assist them in continuing to perform the essential government function of food production and delivery on behalf of USDA/AMS when law enforcement professionals seek to enforce otherwise applicable city or state shelter-in-place orders,” Tutwiller said. “For this reason, it is critical that USDA/AMS contractors carry their identification and a copy of this directive when traveling to and from work locations and while delivering USDA/AMS purchased food products to verify their activity as an essential government service.”