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Ag Department says state’s ‘food supply is secure’

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate released a statement Thursday aimed at assuring Alabamians that the department is still hard at work and the state’s food supply chain is sturdy.

Pate first noted that the department has “fulfilled its regulatory responsibility” by sending all of its 350 employees to work from home per a recommendation from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).

“Our duty is to protect food safety, ensure animal health, permit the movement of plants and the use of pesticides while regulating the weighing and measuring devices needed in industry,” Pate said in the statement. “We fulfill our regulatory responsibilities so that the food and agriculture industries of Alabama can continue to provide a safe and secure food supply. Alabama’s agricultural producers and related industries not only provide food and fiber to its citizens, but to the rest of the country and the world.”

According to the statement, Pate took part in a conference call hosted by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Purdue alongside other state agriculture commissioner and was assured that the department is “coordinating with all federal agencies to prohibit any federal actions being taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 from adversely impacting our national food supply or logistics systems supporting those industries.”

“Food is essential all year round but, in the face of a pandemic, it is critical the shelves remain stocked and supplies remain plentiful,” Pate said. “America’s farmers and ranchers and those on the frontlines in the food service industry are doing their part.”

Additionally, Pate noted that his department has been in constant contact with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and Alabama Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Brian Hastings to request “assistance in designating all agricultural stakeholders as ‘Critical Infrastructure and Essential Services’” so these industries can continue to operate unrestricted.

“ADAI would like to assure our fellow citizens that our food supply is secure,” the statement said. “There is ample sustainable food in our unrestricted supply system to continue to feed Alabamians as the system currently works. There is no reason to feel the need to hoard or to stock more food than normal. The food supply chain will continue to operate as normal and will strive to keep the shelves stocked with food and supplies during this pandemic. From growing to transportation, to processing to distribution, the federal government and our state government are committed to allowing all component of the food supply chain to operate unimpeded.”