Ag Growth Summit highlights the need to protect food supply in Kansas

Capitol Bureau

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas farmers and agriculture officials are tasked with keeping the food supply high during a pandemic.

Meat processing plants have been hit hard by coronavirus outbreaks in the state and industry leaders are trying to prevent the virus from spreading again.

Because of the pandemic, hundreds of farmers and officials are meeting virtually at the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s largest event, the Ag Growth Summit.

Tuesday’s topic was “protecting our supply chain.”

Meat and grain processors shared how they’re promoting masks, putting barriers up between workers and trying to prevent people from gathering in large groups.

We were extremely diligent,” said Jarrod Gillig of Cargill Protein. “We put masks on everybody, the expectation was you wear it. You wear it as soon as you walk through the gate, you’re going to wear it all the way through.”

Gillig said the company continues to try and improve its safety.

“We continue to learn, what is the active role of a mask and a face shield, what is we’ve talked about the barriers, what can we do different, how can we make sure we’re looking at traffic patterns, we continue to challenge ourselves, where we’re at today is not good enough, and we’re going to keep challenging ourselves as we move forward,” Gillig said.

Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman also attended the meeting. He highlighted that businesses should work with community leaders to emphasize employees’ need to be safe outside of the workplace.

“To the degree that we can push down the infectivity in communities, and push down the number of cases in communities, you’re businesses are going to benefit from that, so do not think you’re businesses are an island,” Norman told industry leaders.

He said the spread of the virus will get worse as we enter the fall and winter. So agriculture officials are trying to be prepared so production doesn’t have to slow down.

“What’s the next wave look like, we’ve learned some things, we’ve installed some practices, but it’s not over, we can’t let our guard down, we’ve got to be thinking about how do we plan ahead for another wave of this if it happens,” Agriculture Secretary Mike Beam said.

The summit will continue on Wednesday where speakers will talk about trade issues. Then on Thursday, farmers and industry leaders will hear from Governor Laura Kelly, as well as a federal official from the USDA about national issues.

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