Apr 5, 2021Survey: COVID protocols cost Washington farms $2,500 per month, packers even more
In a recent survey by the IMPACT Center at Washington State University, Washington State farm family’s direct compliance outlays to manage COVID-19 were roughly $2,532 per month.
Direct compliance outlays were much higher for those businesses packing potatoes at $4,340 per month.
- Potato growers and packers experienced losses keeping employees safe by distancing protocols, masks, cleaning and paying employees to stay home if experiencing any symptoms from COVID-19.
- Packers spent 49 hours and growers 17 hours per month managing COVID-19 compliance protocols.
The efforts spent appear to be working for both growers and packers in protecting the employees and operators from infection. The primary concerns of both remain employee health, but efficiency losses are the second largest concern for packers while the second largest concern for growers remains direct compliance costs. Growers and packers were more than concerned about employee health and liability when outside the safety controls on the farm or packing operation.
The rural regions of the state are dominated by agricultural activities that operate at narrow margins and cannot allow for remote work. These direct compliance costs and efficiency losses are being born by rural regions, and populations that operate in less versatile types of employment. The rural counties in Washington, as defined by the Washington State Department of Health, have an average case rate of 4.6%, lower than the average 5.3% rate of their urban counter parts. However, the employment in those rural areas is less likely to allow for remote work causing employment shocks as a percent of the labor market to be devastating economically.
— Washington State Potato Commission