Michigan growers react to court ruling on migrant worker COVID-19 testing

On Wednesday evening, the US Court of Appeals ruled on a very controversial case involving seasonal workers. The court denied a group of nearly 200 agricultural business owners and employees the chance to convince a judge that migrant workers should not have to be tested for COVID-19. Farmers argue that the majority of their seasonal workers are Hispanic, and governor Whitmer's mandate that all seasonal workers must be tested for the virus is discriminatory and racially charged, not to mention that the mandate will hurt the farmer’s businesses.

At West Wind Orchards apples are ready to be picked within the next week. But due to COVID-19 testing requirements, the issue is finding workers who will pick them. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that enforcing the mandatory COVID-19 testing will not cause farms harm impossible to repair.

Although the court's opinion is that the risk of workers leaving the industry is too hypothetical, West Wind Orchards has already lost workers. A worker at the farm, Leo said every day the number of workers returning is dwindling.

Upnorthlive.com reports that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services claims that the order is necessary to prevent COVID-19 surges in labor camps. There's also a priority to make sure workers handling food production are not sick. Smeltzer said his farm has taken preventative measures, such as frequent hand washing and hand sanitizer stations.

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