The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Farmers

The Novel Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) impacted the world profoundly during late 2019 and early 2020. As the pandemic continues, many lives of small farmers in the United States are being affected in challenging ways. The extent of disruptions caused by the virus varies to some extent, based upon a producer's specific area of specialization and geographic locale.

Increased Demand For Some Products

In some areas, farmers discover a heightened demand for the items they produce. At the same time, the logistics of conveying certain goods to markets prove complex. Efforts to enforce social distancing restrict options for selling some farmer's market crops, for example. Yet a strong demand exists for many fruits and veggies, despite these limitations.

One illustration of this anomaly occurs in the annual production of live poultry. During the early spring, feed stores and co-ops around the United States offer chicks for sale in large numbers. Due to fears about the coronavirus epidemic, some households reportedly invested heavily in home grown chickens and other poultry this year. Raising chicks supports small specialty farms in some regions of the United States.

Coronavirus Impacts Slaughterhouses Significantly

Some small farms raise livestock for consumption purposes. These enterprises currently face disruptions in certain locations. In parts of Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, hog farmers face plummeting prices due to the shuttering of slaughterhouse facilities. 

Recently, news reports revealed workers in many meat processing establishments work shoulder to shoulder in close proximity to one another. Several facilities shut down temporarily after the pandemic struck vulnerable workers. These disruptions significantly impact some small livestock farmers on an economic level. Some will face increased costs maintaining herds for longer periods of time until processing plants reopen.

Marketing Bottlenecks Pose Challenges

The regional disruptions in supply chains for certain products resulting from shutdown orders also impact small farmers to varying degrees. One clear example occurs within the dairy industry. Many milk and cheese producers sell their products to restaurants and school districts. Today, shutdown orders have caused marketplace disruptions in many places.

While the demand for dairy products still exists, some large purchasers no longer actively compete to purchase these goods in bulk. Dairy farmers garnered national headlines recently by dumping milk after prices dropped precipitously. Many other agricultural producers face short term marketplace disruptions that impact the prices they obtain for harvests, too. The University of Missouri recently forecast U.S. farmers stand to lose billions of dollars in revenue during 2020.

A Challenging Period For Everyone

Just like other Americans, small farmers today contend with many frightening uncertainties. Their jobs often occur in relative isolation. Consequently, social distancing rules don't present a significant problem in many cases. Yet they do feel the impact of short-term marketplace disruptions acutely. 

These agricultural producers frequently fall within older age demographics. They sometimes run a high risk of sustaining physical harm from the pandemic. Undoubtedly, they will welcome the end of this public health crisis!

22 Apr 2020

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