The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted so many industries around the world for many months now and its effects won’t probably disappear any time soon. Among those who are affected are the farmers in America and the country’s agricultural system as a whole. Surprisingly, US farmers have proven themselves quite resilient amidst these trying times.
While the pandemic is indeed a crisis, the reality is that the farming sector has been dealing with difficulties for years now. The most recent string of challenges can be traced back to the year 2012 when the US experienced a huge drought. In 2013, commodity prices peaked but then commodity production globally outpaced the market’s demand.
This led to the continuous lowering of prices, which impacted the profits received by farmers. Their efforts are just not getting the well-deserved return. For example, from 2012 to 2019, the price of corn kept plummeting. From being priced at $6.89 per bushel, the average price dropped to $3.56 per bushel. This is a drop of around 48% in just 7 years.
The meat and livestock farming industries have not been spared from these tough times as well. Prices for hogs and cattle have been on a downward trend for the past 5 years now. Bloomberg studied the prices and created a chart showing futures prices and year-to-date changes through mid-September of 2020. This data was `published by the USDA` as well.
As you can see, lean hogs and cattle saw around a 6% to 8% price drop. Cotton, corn, and wheat prices declined between 6% to 8% as well. Fortunately, rice and soybeans are on an upward trend.
When the pandemic hit, establishments everywhere had to slow down or even shut down entirely. `More` shops closed their doors and switched to an online setup. Months of lockdowns have also affected consumers’ purchasing behavior. The availability of products and empty shelves became a highly noticeable problem. Loss of jobs nationwide has impacted farm families as well. As such, Covid really took the farming industry for a steep dive.
According to the USDA’s forecasts, the income of farmers this 2020 is bound to be $31 billion less compared to what has been forecasted prior to Covid.
Uncertainty still lingers, but the good thing is that US farmers are showing their resilience.
To help the industry bounce back, the government has put forth several countermeasures. One critical example is the USDA providing assistance in the form of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 1). This will provide American farmers and ranchers with financial aid that is estimated to be worth $16 billion.
While the virus outbreak did put a damper to the projected recovery and growth of the farming industry, there are still productivity gains to be seen. Farmers are utilizing smart newly enacted policies and innovative technology to bolster their operations and keep things afloat.
From a national perspective, weather forecasts are good and this will surely help boost upcoming harvests. Trade outlooks and the global competitiveness of US agriculture are looking up as well. Economic recoveries for the industry are expected to come in 2021.
As for agricultural exports, data shows that this area is holding up well. From January to July of 2020, agricultural export losses were only about 3.5% compared to 18% of non-agricultural exports.
It can be said then that the impact of the outbreak on the farming industry is not as wide-ranging compared to other industries. Marine transportation of most of the country’s agricultural products has seen limited disruption as well. There are indeed numerous encouraging signs across the board.
It is great to see this resilience and good signs for the future, but farmers will continue facing difficulties in the months to come. With that said, there are certain things that we the consumers can do to help them weather the challenges and even grow in the next year.
One would be to take advantage of food delivery services. Just because your local produce store has limited stocks or is closed, that doesn’t mean that you should stop enjoying your fresh vegetables and meat. By buying these online and having them delivered to your doorstep will not only keep you eating well, but will even help stimulate and open new doors in the farming community.
Of course, be sure to make intelligent comparisons when purchasing your produce and meat online. `Comparing the beef from Butcher Box and US Wellness`, for example, will help you decide which one provides the most delicious meat products for you.
Another way to help our farmers outlast the pandemic is to support community agriculture programs and farm-to-table drives. For those of you who have started gardening, check the farms nearest you and see if they are offering seedlings and other agricultural products on top of their produce.
Follow and support farmers on social media as well. Spread the word about their offers. Even just writing them short comments of encouragement will go a long way.
Overall, it’s a difficult time for most of us, and showing support for each other will help us get through this `pandemic`. The farming industry continues to face challenges but US farmers are not backing down either.