Managing a farm during COVID-19

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has brought the need for business health, safety and continuity planning to the forefront. Now is the time to communicate with employees and family members regarding plans to keep them safe, healthy, and working especially during the busy planting season.  This is also a good time to review important community contact information including your Emergency contacts and Public Health Department.

While much of the negative impact on Agriculture by COVID19 is out of our control, there are things you can do now to reduce or prevent the impact of COVID19 on the health and productivity of your farm.  Please do not fail to take care of yourself.

Find resources about:


Navigating Farm Support Programs:

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, Information is now live on   Program sign up begins May 26, 2020 and ends August 28, 2020.   Details on payment rates, eligibility, records needed for the application and  Online application will help streamline the application process are on the website.

CFAP Payment CalculatorThis Excel workbook allows you to input information specific to your operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form. NOTE: Microsoft Excel is required to use this workbook.  A video preview with more information is available here

CFAP Call Center is available for producers who would like additional one-on-one support with the CFAP application process.  Producers can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance.  This may be particularly helpful for those without prior experience working with FSA.

  • Direct payment for Dairy Farmers Dairy Markets & Policy outlined changes and calculated a few farm examples so you can see the impact on dairy farms.
  • Direct payment for Commodity Crop Farmers Renk Agribusiness Institute outlines how the program works, payment rates and how to calculate payments including for silage and hay made from eligible crops, and the grain equivalent conversion factors used for corn and oats.
  • Direct payments for Livestock Farmers Brenda Boetel, Extension Farm Management Specialist provides details of the CFAP payment for livestock producers, and example calculations based on the sum of two distinct components.

Navigating Farm Support Programs  This post provides a table of various issues or problems a farm may be having and the federal program that is meant to help. Below the table is a description of the programs and resources. Link to a 3-minute video

PPP & EIDL Loans/Advances – what farmers need to knowThis article provides updates on the PPP and EIDL – with links to webinars, radio interviews and resources.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Wisconsin  Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new temporary federal program that provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI).

Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act: Legal Obligations for Farms with Employees during COVID-19  This document provides information to farms with employees to help them understand this new law

Business Tax Provisions under CARES Act: Payroll tax credit and deferral   The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. is designed to sustain Americans during the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. This post provides an overview of key business tax provisions implemented by the law including Employee Retention Credit and Payroll Deferral.

Individual Tax Provisions under CARES Act: Payments for Individuals and Filing Delays This post provides an overview of key individual tax provisions implemented by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Decisions for Economic Recovery: 

Managing COVID-19 Instigated Risk on the Dairy Farm – Be Optimistic, But Plan  Many in the dairy industry may face tough conversations in the year ahead. This document breaks down the challenges by what risks may be faced today versus next week or the months ahead.

Cash Flowing to the Other Side of COVID-19  Economic recovery from COVID presents some potentially tough conversations for dairy businesses. Every crisis has an eventual end and the challenge is focusing on those decisions that we can control that puts our families, our business and ourselves in the best position post-crisis. This article focuses on the challenge of how to cash flow until we get to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.

Standing Strong & Resolute as a Guardian of Your Equity Economic recovery from COVID presents some potentially tough conversations for farm businesses. Every crisis has an eventual end and the challenge is focusing on those decisions that we can control that puts our families, our business and ourselves in the best position post-crisis. (accompanies previous articles which references the “Guardians/Transitioners” as second of the “3 camps”)

Working with Your Lender This article provides advice and steps to consider when communicating with your lender during the COVID-19 outbreak. Link to 4-minute video

Defining Our New Reality – Where Do I Begin? Seven steps to help business owners take control of their financial situation and to turn areas of concern into business opportunities.

COVID19 Impacts on the Dairy Industry video series

A three-part video series, highlights perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic; impacts on the farm; and finding ways to regain a sense of control to put these stressful times into perspective.  Access the videos at the following link: UW Extension Agriculture COVID-19 Response: Farm Finances

COVID 19 – Impacts on the Dairy Industry – An Overview
A conversation that highlights perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic; impacts on the farm; and finding ways to regain some sense of control to put these stressful times into perspective. 8-minute video

COVID 19 – Impacts on the Dairy Industry #2 (Communication, Planning, Action)
Part #2 of a conversation on the COVID-19 pandemic and ideas for ag producers. Includes the importance of transparent conversations with family, lenders, and other stakeholders. We also talk about how time spent PLANNING and PREPARING is a good tool to reduce stress, and the clarity gained helps farmers to make better decisions during times of high stress. 10-minute video

COVID 19 Impacts on the Dairy Industry #3 (Markets, Recovery, Actions to Reduce Stress)
Part #3 of a conversation on the COVID-19 pandemic and ideas for farmers and ag producers. Includes observations on national and global markets, opinions on recovery, how consumer habits changed with respect to dairy product consumption in the COVID-19 crisis, and SPECIFIC ways to throttle back the normal stress response (eating, sleep, activity, routine and finding quiet time to reflect). 13-minute video

Speakers in the conversation are UW-Madison, Division of Extension Farm Management Specialists: Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis and Director of the UW Center for Dairy Profitability, UW-Madison. John Shutske, Agricultural Safety & Health Specialist and Director of UW Center for Agricultural Safety & Health, UW-Madison. Kevin Bernhardt, Farm Management Specialist, UW-Platteville, and affiliated with the Center for Dairy Profitability.

more financial topics:

State of Dairy Markets In this April 1, 2020 article, Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis at UW-Madison discusses the current state of dairy markets, dumping of milk, how bad will it get, is there relief? and What can we do?

Six Possible Impacts of COVID 19 on Farms   University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension – specific considerations that farmers, farming families, ag employers, and employees need to be aware of and plan for (March 16, 2020)

Managing Your Personal Finances during COVID19 Frequently asked questions (and answers) about financial challenges as a result of COVID19.

Social distancing protocol on farms

Social Distancing for Farmers  Three action items on how farmers can incorporate social distancing into their farm operations.

I am having seed, feed, chemicals and other products delivered – what precautions should I take? Tips to minimize risk when having items delivered to the farm.  Staying healthy and taking delivery of seed, fertilizer and other farm inputs  This 11-minute video provides practical information to minimize contact and infection from COVID-19 virus for farmers and others handling agricultural input products

Managing visitors and deliveries to farms  Farms are the origin of the food industry. The health of farmers is instrumental at the start of a safe and secure food system. For this reason, farmers and those providing service to farms are identified as essential for Americans. UW-Madison Extension experts advise farms to consider all avenues of potential virus spread and develop protocols to reduce risk of disease.

Best management practices for providing a safe shopping environment at farmers markets (and available in Hmong). Farmers markets, like grocery stores, are considered an essential food resource. Each farmers market must decide if it can provide a shopping environment at least of equal safety to local grocery stores.  See more resources including for food cart and food truck business owners and community garden managers.

Planning to ensure farm continuation

Planning for a Labor Disruption This guide is meant to help you develop proper plans to deal with labor disruptions

What’s Your Staffing Plan if COVID-19 Hits Your Farm? Tips on how to build a plan should any of your employees, key team leaders, or you yourself fall ill.

Creating a Dairy Farm Operating Plan  A clear and easily available operating plan identifies people who are familiar with the farm to take over operations if you are unable to farm for a while and provides clarity on what needs to be done – template included.

Farm Continuation Planning in Response to COVID-19 Tips to develop a clear and easily available field, planting, and harvest plan for family, friends, and neighbors to use in case the farm’s manager is ill or unable to perform or direct field operations – template included.

Food safety messaging for direct-marketing farms: tips for communicating your farm’s commitment to food safety and response to COVID-19.

Maintaining a safe workplace

COVID-19 Guidance for Farm Employers   Farms have unique challenges with the rapidly spreading COVID-19. UW-Madison Extension experts provide tips for farm employers about communicating COVID-19 protocol to employees.

IN SPANISH Información para empleadores agrícolas durante la pandemia de COVID-19 6-minute video COVID-19 Orientación para trabajadores agrícolas hispanos

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Medical Assistance Options for Hispanic Farmworkers COVID19This factsheet in English and Spanish provides quick resources regarding when to seek medical attention, what to do if without health insurance, how to find a free clinic or health center. Asistencia medica para empleados hispanos COVID19

What farm jobs/chores can I safely give kids who are home from school? Guidance for safe and age-appropriate jobs for your kids.

Get Your Workplace Ready for Pandemic Flu A workbook (set of factsheets), on workplace preparedness for flu pandemic by the Center for Disease Control

Preparedness, Response, Recovery Plan A series of action steps that an organization should take for a potential epidemic.

More on Safe Workplace on YouTub including “Fighting through the Fog of Stress”

Learn the facts about COVID-19

What exactly is COVID? Information and guidance from public health partners about COVID-19

As a farmer what are my risks of contracting COVID-19? Information about how the virus is transmitted and what farmers can do to minimize their risk.

Does working with dairy or beef cattle provide a natural resistance or immunity to COVID-19?  Information that clarifies why working with dairy or beef cattle does not provide immunity from COVID-19.

American Veterinary Medical Association   Information on COVID-19 and the impact on veterinary medicine and other supply chain effects.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), and local health departments have compiled information for the general public to learn more about COVID-19.

As an individual, there are things you can do to help prevent the spread of illness.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze.
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