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COVID-19 and the US Lettuce Supply Chain: Implications for Farmworker Health and Safety and a Secure Supply

Authors
  • Loker, Ali1
  • 1 University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1875 N 38th St , (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Sep 16, 2020
Volume
18
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/jafio-2020-0029
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed multiple vulnerabilities in the U.S. lettuce value chain. Restaurants and other food service operations closed almost overnight, leaving farmers with millions of dollars of excess lettuce. Because of the rigid value chain, farmers were forced to decide whether to harvest their crops for donation, try to find new customers, or plow their crops under. Close working and living conditions increase farmworkers’ risk of contracting COVID-19. Though many operations have implemented safety measures to protect farmworkers from COVID-19 in the short-term, larger structural changes must be made to provide workers with fair wages, access to health insurance and paid time off, and affordable housing. This review outlines the current value chain of lettuce in the U.S. and the disruptions caused by COVID-19, analyzes the impacts on farmworker health and safety, and offers recommendations for a more resilient lettuce value chain.

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