Since close to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has tracked complaints it’s received about the virus by industry. And through May of this year, agriculture — think crop farming, cattle ranching and the like — has had relatively few complaints.

Out of about 67,000 complaints, agriculture accounts for 562. Many say employers were not following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The jobs within agriculture that had the most complaints, at about 18%, were post-harvest activities, such as shelling corn or packing fruits and vegetables.

That’s not to say rural areas haven’t struggled any less with the virus. The death rate among rural residents surpassed the rate of urban residents in September, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Note: Meatpacking plants are not included under the federal government's definition of agriculture. They are included under manufacturing.

DATA ANALYSIS: The data comes from OSHA’s weekly COVID-19 complaint data, which is published on the agency’s website. The graphic combines complaints that remain open and that are closed. OSHA tracks the NAICS code for the primary business involved in the complaint, and the site-specific NAICS code for the involved business. Only the primary NAICS code was used in the analysis. The data is from March 17, 2020, to May 21, 2021.

Type of work:

Sky Chadde has covered the agriculture industry for Investigate Midwest since 2019 and spent much of 2020 focused on the crisis of COVID-19 in meatpacking plants, which included collecting and analyzing...

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