COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak

Updated April 2, 2020

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19.

General information about COVID-19:

 

Food Safety

SCDA is not currently aware of any evidence suggesting COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.

However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices when handling or preparing foods: wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly.

Farms and food processing facilities are already required under state and federal law to take steps to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses.

SCDA urges food producers to continue following best practices.

More on COVID-19 and Food Safety:

 

Food Supply

 

Facilities and Events

SCDA offices are closed to the public. Staff are still available by phone and email, with many working remotely during the COVID-19 response.

Our three State Farmers Markets remain open for regular business.

We will continue accepting deliveries via UPS, USPS, and FedEx. Hemp permit applications can still be dropped off at our Consumer Protection Division facility at 123 Ballard Court in West Columbia. Our Metrology Lab is closed and is not accepting or releasing weights at this time.

SCDA has made the decision to postpone all events at SCDA facilities until at least May 10, 2020, to protect our South Carolina citizens and minimize opportunities to spread COVID-19 in our communities. This includes the Phillips Market Center, along with the State and Regional Farmers Markets. Events will be rescheduled or held virtually, as feasible.

 

Federal Aid for Agriculture

Congress and President Trump have approved a new bipartisan aid package to address the expanding COVID-19 pandemic. The total relief package includes roughly $2 trillion to bolster the US economy.
You may access a summary of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the ‘‘CARES Act’’ here.

Some items are particularly relevant to South Carolina agribusinesses:

  • The bill provides $9.5 billion in emergency funding to the USDA to support agriculture industries impacted by COVID-19, including fruit and vegetable producers, livestock producers, and producers focused on local food systems. We are expecting more information to be forthcoming on how to access these funds.
  • Also awarded to the USDA was $14 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) borrowing authority. Along with current CCC funding, which is at $8.5 billion, this would allow USDA to utilize up to $22.5 billion in CCC related activities such as Market Facilitation Payments and directing funds to Section 32 for produce purchases.
  • The bill includes $350 billion for a new loan program available under SBA: The Paycheck Protection Program.  This is available for businesses with no more than 500 employees or eligible according to existing SBA regulations, which you may find here. This Paycheck Protection Program could provide 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to small employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If the employer maintains its payroll, then the portion of the loan used for covered payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven.
  • An increase of $562 million in funding for the Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) is also available to businesses with no more than 500 employees, including emergency grants up to $10,000 to cover emergency expenses directly related to COVID-19, such as paid sick leave for employees directly affected by COVID-19, payroll to retain employees during business disruptions or substantial slowdowns, meeting increased costs to supply the supply chain, and paying obligations that cannot be met due to lost revenue. Find more information.

These SBA programs may not be applicable to all farm enterprises, only agricultural cooperatives, aquaculture enterprises, nurseries, or producer cooperatives that are small under SBA Size Standards.

 

Resources