Most businesses were doing well before the coronavirus. Agriculture was not.
COVID-19 is just the latest in a string of misfortunes that have kept the farm economy down for several years: weather disasters, a trade war and even before that, commodity prices have been below the cost of production.
“None of us can afford to lose farms, especially now that we’re more focused than ever on the security of our food supply chain,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President.
Consumers understandably might think that farmers are doing well, given the empty shelves we’re all seeing at grocery stores. But those buying habits could slow down, and we’ve already seen a dramatic drop in demand from food service, restaurants and schools and universities.
There are unofficial estimates that the current market price of milk is down 40% compared to January. Prices for cattle, corn and other farm goods also are falling.
A farm aid package from the government will help farmers – something Farm Bureau worked tirelessly on amounting to $23.5 billion in government aid from USDA.
People are driving less and that has driven down demand for ethanol made from corn at the same time as oil production has increased. Ethanol plants are idled, corn prices are down, and livestock producers who relied on distillers dried grains – a byproduct of ethanol production – are scrambling to replace that source of animal feed.
Agricultural futures, which many farmers depend on to lock in better prices later on, are down as well. That shows a concern that consumers will buy less in the coming weeks and months, as the economy slows and unemployment worsens. It also reflects worries about whether our overseas markets will return if product can’t move and as economies around the world are reeling from the virus outbreak and restrictions to contain it. Hopefully, trade will continue and grow.
Farmers wear many hats even under the best of conditions and now more than ever. But their ultimate job is to feed and take care of people.
“During these uncertain times farm families are keeping our plates full even though some sparse grocery store shelves have caused concern due to supply chain stresses,” said Duvall.
There is no shortage of food being grown in our country, thanks to the hard-working farmers who are still farming.
Some farmers depend on farmers markets for their sales. With restaurant business severely cut, farmers who sell meat and produce directly to restaurants are more dependent on direct-to-consumer sales.
“Farm Bureau continues to address the economic impacts of the virus, provide resources for farmers, and ensure our fellow citizens have the nutritious food they need,” said Duvall. “We’ll get through this.”
It’s a chance to show the world that agriculture is critical to our lives and farmers are proud to work hard so that all Americans can continue to have the safe, sustainable food we need and enjoy.
Source: American Farm Bureau Federation