ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, US — The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), along with 23 state and regional feed and grain associations, called on state officials around the country March 18 to maintain access to businesses providing animal food amid proposed state plans to close “non-essential businesses” to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The plea comes after some states released response plans that excluded animal food manufacturing facilities, transportation and agricultural and non-agricultural retail establishments from their lists of “essential businesses.”

In an urgent letter, the groups stated that these businesses should be reclassified because not doing so would hinder the animal food industry’s ability to continue feeding America’s livestock, poultry and pets, threaten the US food supply and drive up prices for farmers, ranchers, pet owners and consumers.

“While we understand and appreciate the efforts to slow this pandemic, we also must recognize that animals must continue to have access to food and therefore, our industry must be able to manufacture, transport and sell ingredients, feed and pet food,” the associations stated in the letter. “Some states have taken the necessary steps to exclude essential businesses that qualify as ‘agricultural’ under their respective state codes. As you look at your next containment steps, we want to ensure that livestock feed and pet food, and the establishments that transport, package, manufacture, process and sell those products, receive the same exemptions as they are vital to the health and well-being of animals.”

 The groups added that some animal food products can be purchased from a variety of places, including pet stores, grocers, veterinary clinics and a variety of agricultural and non-agricultural retail establishments.

  Earlier in the week, the AFIA notified its members that in an effort to slow the global pandemic and protect the health and well-being of its staff, members and visitors to its Arlington, Virginia, US, headquarters, it will temporarily operate on a virtual basis.

“Rest assured, we are not suspending or closing operations,” the AFIA said. “We will continue to serve you and conduct business on a remote basis through March 31.”

The global COVID-19 pandemic, which was first detected in China in December 2019, has infected more than 225,000 people and killed more than 9,000.

Through March 18, there have been more than 9,000 documented cases and 155 deaths in the United States.