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Executive order requires COVID-19 protections for farmworkers

Migrant workers, USDA, farmers

The state is now requiring farmworker camp operators to space out beds and provide quarantine areas for sick workers.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order last week that required the changes. Under the order, beds must be kept at least six feet apart in farmworker camps. Thousands of workers each year stay in farmworker housing. The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development says last year, the state averaged about six workers per housing unit.

The new executive order also says workers should sleep head-to-toe in bunk beds. Anyone who is sick should be kept in separate housing, and farmers must follow OSHA guidance on social distancing and personal protective equipment.

MDARD will inspect housing units for compliance.

“We anticipate that we are going to find some non-compliance,” says Diana Marin, an attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. “And it’s really going to be the role of MDARD, the state agency, to go after those bad apples, for lack of a better phrase.”

The order is set to expire June 29th. Marin says she hopes the governor extends it.

“The blueberry season is really in July, apple goes through the fall, asparagus is right now, and several other crops are already happening right now,” Marin says. “So we really hope the governor will extend it beyond June 29th, and that it’s not going to get watered down.”

MIRC says any workers who have questions about the order can call its hotline at 800-968-4046.

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Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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