Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Outlines Updated Farm Labor Requirements, Advocates for Skilled Labor to Ensure Food Supply

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture provided farmers who provide housing to their workforce – be it domestic, migrant, or guest H-2A workers – with enhanced requirements for seasonal farm labor to maintain a healthy agriculture workforce to ensure necessary farm labor can continue during COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania. The Wolf Administration continues to advocate for a safe, skilled agriculture workforce to perform essential duties to keep Pennsylvania’s food supply chain strong.

Pennsylvania is home to more than 360 permitted Seasonal Farm Labor Camps with nearly 4,300 workers. The workers in these camps are primarily migrant workers – sourced by their company – or H-2A workers – sourced federally. Even before COVID-19 hit Pennsylvania, the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Food safety oversaw the Seasonal Farm Labor Camps where these guest workers reside. The Seasonal Farm Labor Act and regulation sets standards for conditions of work, living quarters, occupancy, camp sanitation, food facilities, fire protection, and safety of farm workers. In addition to these required standards, the department has issued additional requirements for employers to follow to mitigate against COVID-19 for their workforce.

The following are some examples of necessary provisions to maintain the health and safety of seasonal farm workers:

  • Per CDC recommendations, there should be a minimum of six feet between beds;
  • Beds should be positioned so that workers sleep head-to-toe to limit exposure to respiratory droplets;
  • Provide workers with cloth face masks to wear while in housing;
  • Ensure bathrooms and other sinks are consistently stocked with soap and drying materials for adequate handwashing;
  • Provide hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available;
  • Ensure high contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized on a routine basis with EPA-registered disinfectants;
  • Ensure essential supplies for cleaning and sanitizing are available in all living quarters and worksites;
  • Designate an individual responsible for maintaining routine cleaning.

In addition to these additional requirements to keep workers from getting sick with COVID-19, the Modified Seasonal Farm Labor Camp Requirements include steps to take if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19.