Saying she is “appalled that the governor is vindictively targeting Michigan’s farmers,” Watervliet State Representative Pauline Wendzel says she is standing with migrant workers and the Michigan agricultural community in opposition to Gov. Whitmer’s coronavirus testing orders.
Wendzel has been in the district talking to the agricultural community and says, “I’m appalled that the governor is vindictively targeting Michigan’s farmers with this hurtful order.” She adds, “I’ve spent the last few days sitting with and speaking directly to our local farmers. They’re deeply hurt and don’t understand why Governor Whitmer doesn’t think they care enough to provide safe working conditions for their employees.”
Coming from the heart of the fruit belt, Wendzel says, “I grew up around this community. I know they care deeply for their employees, our community, and stopping the spread of COVID, but this order does nothing but kick hardworking people who are already struggling this season.”
After touring Southwest Michigan farms, Wendzel says, “Berrien County farmers already barely survived two terrible events. They survived massive crop losses due to the polar vortex, and they survived an incredibly rainy planting season. After scraping by and barely making enough to pay their bills and put food on their own tables, Governor Whitmer dropped this order on them at the height of harvesting season.”
Katie from Swanson Pickle in Ravenna northwest of Grand Rapids concurs with Wendzel’s assessment, saying, “Our top priority is the health of our workforce,” and adding, “What we need is access to timely COVID testing for symptomatic people and close contacts. In our experience, there are many barriers to effective testing, both in terms of ability to get a test and wait times. Issuing an executive order doesn’t fix any of the current testing pitfalls and will only harm our small family farm.”
Wendzel ended on a morbid note, telling us, “Suicide rates among farmers have already been skyrocketing due to the stress of their jobs and complying with more and more mandates and a shrinking profit margin. This order that dictates a mandatory medical procedure will scare away workers and shut down family-owned farms.”
Rep. Wendzel also defended migrant workers from Governor Whitmer’s targeted orders, saying, “Migrant workers go through an incredibly difficult process to legally work in our country,” and adding, “They come to Michigan for the chance at a better quality of life for their families. They work tirelessly to fill our supermarkets so we can put food on our tables.”
Wendzel argues, “This order isn’t based on science and data. It meticulously targets a minority group, without any regard to symptoms. We need a smarter plan of action to address this issue. As a member of the recently formed Food Security Council, my commitment is that I’ll work with the medical experts and follow the data while protecting the civil liberties of our vulnerable community members. Together, we can solve this problem without trampling on the rights of our citizens.”
Governor Whitmer’s DHHS order mandates COVID-19 testing for agricultural and food processing employees. The order gave Michigan farmers very little time, until August 10th, to draft a full-scale plan on how they will conduct mandatory testing in compliance with the executive order.
The order also requires migrant housing camp operators, employers of migrant or seasonal workers in meat, poultry, and egg processing facilities, and greenhouses with over 20 employees on-site to provide COVID-19 testing.
Additionally, any employee who refuses a test may not conduct in-person work until the individual is tested and receives a documented negative result.