Crop input supplies not hit by Brandon COVID-19 cluster

News recently broke that a number of service staff at a trucking firm that hauls fertilizer had tested positive but so far there's been no delays

Koch Fertilizer Canada says it has not been impacted by news that its major trucking provider has had several confirmed cases of COVID-19 among maintenance staff.

On May 6, The Brandon Sun reported that seven cases had been linked to Oak Point Service, the maintenance branch of Paul’s Hauling Ltd.

A number of employees of the Oak Point Service location in Brandon had tested positive for COVID-19, the newspaper reported, citing a general email from Rod Corbett, vice-president of Paul’s Hauling, to the company’s employees.

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According to the article, Corbett wrote on May 1 that there had been three Oak Point Service employees who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Why it matters: A major trucking company for Koch Fertilizer has reportedly had several service staff fall ill to COVID-19. Meanwhile, seeding and spring fertilizer season is getting ready for high gear.

The email cited that an employee had started feeling sick after his shift on April 22, and proceeded to call in sick from work for his following shifts. He was confirmed to have COVID-19 on April 27.

“We contacted Health Links and were advised they did not think he was contagious on his last day worked, April 20, and this shift should continue to self-monitor,” The Brandon Sun quoted from Corbett’s email. “We immediately attempted to have the entire weekend shift tested, but because no one was experiencing any symptoms, they would not test the rest of the people on the weekend shift.”

That shift reportedly returned to work from April 25-27. Several employees were tested later after either noticing symptoms or coming in close contact with someone who had.

The company reportedly planned to close the shop for several days to be disinfected and would be, “diligently following the guidelines that have been previously laid out including self-monitoring for each employee,” the May 6 article quoted.

Corbett declined to comment when reached by the Manitoba Co-operator.

Kelly Simonson, managing director for Koch Fertilizer Canada, said there has been a, “later-than-normal start to in-season fertilizer shipments,” but that those issues are weather related.

“We are currently experiencing no disruptions to shipments from our transportation partners as a result of COVID-19,” Simonson said. “Any of the discussions that we have had with our carriers have been very positive and we have been satisfied with their processes and plans for dealing with COVID-19.”

Seeding in Manitoba has been slow to get off the ground, with overnight temperatures still dipping below freezing as of the second week of May. The province reported minimal seeding as of its first provincial crop report May 5, down from last year, when an estimated five per cent of crop had gone in the ground.

Dwayne Durand, manager of Shur-Gro Farm Services in Brandon, also pointed to the weather.

His branch has had no issues with Koch Fertilizer deliveries at this time, he said.

“But our demands aren’t what they normally would be at this time either,” he said. “There’s such a delay in the seeding progress that our dependence on Paul’s Hauling has been minimal.”

The news has not sparked any additional concern or safety measures from Koch Fertilizer, according to Simonson.

“We remain vigilant to the issues surrounding COVID-19, and continually review our processes and the processes of our partners to ensure that we are using best practices as advised by public health authorities,” Simonson said.

About the author

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Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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