US, Brazil classify ethanol industry as essential during pandemic

By Erin Voegele | March 24, 2020

The governments of the two largest ethanol producing countries, the U.S. and Brazil, have each classified ethanol plant employees as essential critical infrastructure workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued guidance on March 19 that that identifies “farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs” as workers critical in the food and agriculture sector. Workers at retail fuel centers, such as gas stations and truck stops, and those who work in the distribution systems that support those fuel centers are also classified as critical workers.

The initial list of essential critical infrastructure workers aims to help state and local officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security…you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule,” said the agency in the guidance.

The Brazilian government on March 20 issued a decree that classifies the production, distribution and sale of fuel as an essential activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICA, the Brazilian sugarcane industry association, issued a statement on March 24 stating that its associates are functioning in compliance with that decree.

According to UNICA, the sugar-energy sector provides Brazil with essential services for the production, distribution and sale of fuel and derivatives. The industry also provides electricity generation, a food product, and alcohol for use in disinfectants.