J-High Acres Dairy Farm in Frewsburg is just one of hundreds across Western New York now required by the state to have a COVID-19 safety plan in place in an effort to reduce liability and risk.

What You Need To Know

  • Farms need to have a COVID-19 safety plan
  • Plan is required under New York Forward 
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension offering help to farmers

"You want to keep your employees safe, but it's a little overkill, what's going on. And I'm not real happy about what we've got to do here, but we will comply," said Jack Jones, J-High Acres Dairy Farm managing partner.

Jack Jones works seven days a week on his farm, but says he still found time to fill out the paperwork as part of New York Forward, requiring all businesses to put together a safety plan.

Though his main focus at the moment is the negative impact the lack of rain and dry weather is having on his corn and oat crop, he says the farm continues to keep its employees, animals and milk haulers safe.

"This kind of weather, I'm working 14-, 15-hour days. We're out in the air here. We wash down three times a day here after every milking. We're a sanitary operation here for milk," said Jones.

"They're managing employees, they're managing animals, they're managing the weather and trying to make sure their crops are in. And it's not a desk job, right, so it's hard to stay connected," said Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Cornell Cooperative Extension farm business management specialist.

Walley-Stoll says the plan should protect farm workers and the farm itself by providing personal protective equipment, and the process through enforcement measures.

The agency is offering written and online resources, including webinars, to help keep farmers in production and reduce their risk of potential litigation. 

"We need our farms, right? All of us need to eat, regardless of a global pandemic or not.  Farms have been essential this entire time, so they've never shut down, right. They still have been doing their thing, making us all safe and healthy food to eat," said Walley-Stoll.

Jones says he's depending on Mother Nature to take care of his crops, so he can continue to work on his safety plan. 

"So, if I get a rainy day, I'll look it over a little closer. But until then, we've got to keep working here," said Jones.

A link for farmers in need of assistance putting their safety plan in place can be found here.

For more information about creating a farm safety plan and COVID-19 considerations in the Southwest New York region, contact Walley-Stoll at 716-640-0522 or kaw249@cornell.edu.