Preventing and controlling COVID-19 on the farm

Farms, ranches, and other production agriculture worksites are essential to powering America’s food supply chain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has introduced up to date guidelines for workers continuing operations while remaining safe and healthy on the farm during the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (GPCAH) offers COVID-19-related materials and resources for agricultural workers during these unprecedented times. We also offer helpful tips and resources to help pinpoint the latest CDC guidelines on the GPCAH Facebook and Twitter pages.

Agricultural worksites face unique challenges amidst the spread of COVID-19.  Frequent close contact with coworkers in barns and fields, sharing of transportation and equipment, social gatherings in areas where community spread exists, and, in some cases, even shared living and eating spaces all make it difficult to maneuver within the new “normal” of preventative measures encouraged by the CDC.

Renée Anthony, professor of occupational and environmental health and GPCAH director said, “I encourage everyone involved with farming and agricultural production to visit the CDC’s website and read these important guidelines that promote health and safety practices for employers and their employees.” 

The guidelines provide strategies to identify at-risk practices and to implement engineering controls, sanitation and cleaning procedures, administrative controls, all aimed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among farmworkers. Recommendations for face coverings are explained to identify the benefits and limitations of these interim control options.

Also included are guidelines for employers who provide housing and transportation for their workers.  This guidance recommends developing a safety plan, providing health screenings to identify for COVID-19 symptoms (including temperature checks and symptom reviews).  It also recommends providing handwashing stations, increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting shared equipment and spaces, and maintaining the critical 6-feet social distance practice even when wearing cloth face coverings. The guidelines also recommend when to consider adding physical barriers in close quarters, reducing crew sizes, staggering work shifts and break times, and physically alternating worker placement within crop rows.

“It is essential for workers to know that cloth face coverings are not respirators and do not protect people from exposure.  However, these coverings do help contain the spread of respiratory droplets, protecting those working around you,” Anthony said. “As summer approaches, farmers also need to be aware that these masks can increase the risk of heat-related illness, so an increase in water and work breaks is necessary.”

Anthony also encourages farm workers and producers to visit to access the COVID-19 resource page and FAQ, suggest additional topics, and ask any questions you may have about interpreting the CDC guidelines. 


Produced by the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health

Story: Jenn Patterson, Communications Coordinator (; 319-594-2704)


The mission of the GPCAH is to prevent agricultural injury and illness and improve safety and health among agricultural communities.
To accomplish this mission, the Center advances knowledge through scientific research and prevents agricultural injury and illness through education, outreach, and intervention programs.

The GPCAH is funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  The NIOSH Agricultural Centers were established as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) / NIOSH Agricultural Health and Safety Initiative in 1990. The Centers were established by cooperative agreement to conduct research, education, and prevention projects to address the nation’s pressing agricultural health and safety problems.  Geographically, the Centers are distributed throughout the nation to be responsive to the agricultural health and safety issues unique to the different regions.