Guidance for Agricultural Auctions
Agricultural production is considered essential for maintaining a safe and abundant food supply during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Many agricultural producers rely on auctions as the primary means for getting their product into distribution channels. However, traditional agricultural auctions are congregation points and pose a risk for transmission of COVID-19. Agricultural auctions may include, but are not limited to: livestock, produce, farm equipment and machinery.
It is critical that agricultural auctions institute immediate changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among their staff, sellers, and buyers. The Maryland Department of Agriculture recommends all agricultural auction markets take the following precautions:
- Conduct auction activities using online or telephone technology wherever possible.
- Implement screening protocols for anyone entering the auction and deny access to anyone displaying respiratory illness and/or fever.
- Post signage instructing staff, sellers, and buyers to practice social distancing (6 feet, including avoiding handshakes), cover coughs and sneezes, and wash hands or use hand sanitizer often.
- Sanitize all pens or pencils in between each use, or have a designated auction employee write down information for bidders to eliminate sharing of writing utensils.
- Print information on COVID-19 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland Department of Health and post throughout the site.
- Update your website and social media with detailed instructions for sellers and buyers so they understand the expectations prior to any sale.
- Require all consignors and bidders to register in advance and restrict access only to registered bidders and consignors. No spectators should be allowed on site.
- Restrict entrance to sales ring and barn to auction employees and those with visible bidder cards. If a bidder card is not visible, access should be denied.
- Limit the number of buyers in the office when paying for purchases.
- Upon completion of payment, buyers should immediately collect their purchases, and leave the auction as soon as possible.
- Provide hand sanitizer or hand washing stations for employees, and encourage bidders to bring their own hand sanitizer for personal use.
- Disinfect all door handles, knobs and gate latches, floor mats, steering wheels, and other commonly contacted surfaces. This should be done prior to the event, then once every two hours, and once again at the end of the event.
- Sanitize common gathering places before and after use – seating and arm rests in the sales ring, lobbies, office spaces, lunch rooms, locker facilities, etc.
- Maintain a log with contact information for all bidders, consignors and employees who were on premises for epidemiologic purposes, in case an attendee should contract COVID-19.
- Consignors should unload livestock or produce and return home unless bidding.
- Eliminate drinking and eating areas and immediately suspend drink and food sales. Staff, consignors and bidders may bring a personal water bottle.
- Trash receptacles should be located away from areas where people will be working.
- Close all parts of the auction market that are not directly associated with the sale.
- Payment to consignors should be mailed or transferred electronically to eliminate any unnecessary person-to-person contact.