COVID-19: I’m having seed, feed, chemicals and other products delivered – what precautions should I take?

The biggest risk associated with product delivery to farms is most likely from contact with a delivery person who might be infected. The National Corn Growers provides guidance to minimize risk associated with product handling and delivery https://www.ncga.com/stay-informed/media/in-the-news/article/2020/03/steps-on-the-farm-to-manage-covid-19

Check this NCGA guidance often as conditions change and more is learned about COVID-19.  The NCGA guidance is summarized and supplemented below:

  1. Develop designated drop-off locations for all farm deliveries away from high traffic areas and the house/office or other places where people gather. (Preferably, this will be in a protected and securable area).
  2. Post specific instructions for drop-off delivery personnel and communicate these clearly via telephone, text, email or other methods. Make sure you are available as deliveries occur to answer questions. Visual communication (such as through a smartphone app) can be used to verify delivery and/or provide additional direction.
  3. Practice physical distancing with delivery drivers. Handshakes in these times are not necessary. Maintain a physical distance of at least six feet. More distance is better. During this pandemic event, communicating in ways that do not require direct personal contact (such as by phone) are always preferred.
  4. Ask delivery personnel to log all deliveries and all on-farm visits on a form/clipboard at your delivery point – include the person’s name, contact information, phone number, time, date, etc. Avoid all unnecessary in-person visits where possible. Having detailed contact information is helpful in the event that someone gets sick and locating contact people is needed. If people sign a log or sign in sheet, ask that they use their own pen
  5. For all on the farm, provide guidance for handwashing and handling any delivered materials.
  6. Sanitize all surfaces that a delivery person has contact with. Disinfect all door handles and knobs, floor mats, steering wheels, writing pens/pencils, and other commonly contacted surfaces.

In terms of handling bags, boxes, and other shipping containers filled with product after they have been delivered to your farm (seed, feed, supplements, fertilizer, etc.), advice and guidance provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), CDC, and the U.S. Postal Service suggests that: “the likelihood of novel Coronavirus contaminating cardboard or other shipping containers is low.”

WHO says: “the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and been exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”

Recent research published by the New England Journal of Medicine tested “simulated” coughs and sneezes onto different surfaces by infected persons using an experimental apparatus. They then tested to see if they could detect virus after different periods of time. They examined surfaces made of plastic, stainless steel, copper, and cardboard.  They learned that virus particles could still be found up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

So, if someone were to directly sneeze or cough onto a bag of seed, feed, etc., it could be possible to have some level of risk based on the presence of the virus for at least the first 24 hours.  It is therefore recommended that IF POSSIBLE you wait 24 hours (or longer) before handling or moving products shipped and handled in paper or cardboard containers including boxes, bags, etc. If you are moving products delivered on pallets with a skid steer or other machine, there is no/very little risk if the product packing itself is not touched.

If you are concerned about large plastic, metal containers, or batches of plastic wrapped product, risk can be reduced by thoroughly spraying (until the surface is wet) containers with a mist from a clean garden sprayer and a water/bleach solution containing 1/3rd cup of household liquid bleach mixed with one gallon of water. Let your containers dry. Storage in direct sunlight will also degrade and kill the virus over time. Other approved sanitizing products can be found here.

It is always recommended that you wear plastic/rubber or washable gloves that you change or clean gloves often and wash your hands after any container handling task. Many farmers are carrying a bundle of cotton “jersey” gloves for protection, bagging each pair of gloves following contact, and washing them in hot water and detergent each night while also making sure to wash hands frequently with soap and warm water and drying them with a clean towel. Avoid leather gloves as they are more difficult to clean.

Study in NEJM: Neeltje van Doremalen, Trenton Bushmaker, Dylan H. Morris, Myndi G. Holbrook, Amandine Gamble, Brandi N. Williamson, Azaibi Tamin, Jennifer L. Harcourt, Natalie J. Thornburg, Susan I. Gerber, James O. Lloyd-Smith, Emmie de Wit, Vincent J. Munster. Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. New England Journal of Medicine, 2020; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973

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