By Sarah Everhart
This article is not a substitute for legal advice. See here for the site’s reposting policy.
In an effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic the State of Maryland has in recent weeks announced many restrictions on public gatherings and the operation of certain non-essential businesses. The various restrictions, unfortunately, caused confusion related to the operation of certain agriculture-related businesses. In an effort to clarify how the restrictions impact agriculture-related businesses, on March 19, 2020 the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) released some important guidance related to these vital businesses.
According to the guidance, any business involved in food distribution, production, processing, sales and supply will be considered essential, including, but not limited to:
Agricultural equipment sales and service
Agricultural supply businesses
Animal feed supply and distribution
Farmers markets and food banks
Food and meat processors and manufacturers, including bakeries, etc.
Food safety laboratories and inspectors
Greenhouses and nurseries
Grocery delivery services
Pet food manufacturers and distributors
Retailers, including grocery stores
Seafood industry (crabbers, watermen, processors, etc.)
Transportation, distribution and suppliers
Veterinary services and supplies
MDA is asking the essential businesses “to remain open and operational—normally and safely—until or unless directed otherwise.” Although permitted to remain operational, business owners are being asked to develop procedures for safe operation of your facility or farm and post those procedures for the benefit of your employees and the broader public.
The Maryland Farmers Market Association (MDFMA) has information available for developing procedures to operate a farmers market. MDFMA, in collaboration with Future Harvest, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Delmarva Grown, and farmers and retailers, has also created a Mid-Atlantic Resources Map. The Map, created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is an interactive resource with information about local food resources offering direct sales. Farmers or vendors that want to be included on the Map, can complete this form.
Businesses who are still unsure whether or not they need to close are encouraged to visit businessexpress.maryland.gov for more information. This portal is updated multiple times each day and is the best source for any questions related to business operations. Interpretive guidance from the Maryland Office of Legal Counsel provides more information regarding required closures by business sector. Any other questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.