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Coronavirus
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COVID-19: How is the virus impacting U.S. agriculture?

As the coronavirus continues to sweep across the nation, here are articles and resources that illustrate the economic ramifications for farmers and ranchers.

On March 17, President Donald J. Trump tweeted, “The world is at war with a hidden enemy. WE WILL WIN!”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the United States, people are facing tough decisions, economic hits and the fear of the virus impacting vulnerable loved ones.

How is agriculture faring in all this?

Well, in short — not good.

Commodity markets have tanked, even with beef flying off the shelves. There is the worry that packing plants will shut down. And producers, who were already hanging on by a thread due to several years of low profitability and losses may now go out of business for good.

To reference BEEF's coverage of this hot topic, visit our landing page by clicking here.

Now, the old adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” rings true here, and I think this crisis highlights the need for producers to connect directly to consumers. What are they stocking up on right now during this time of fear and panic? The essentials — beef, dairy, eggs, and of course, toilet paper.

In a nutshell, the world needs animal agriculture, and those who can weather this storm maybe come out on the other side stronger than ever!

Perhaps you are in survival mode, or are facing the crippling fear that your farm or ranch may not make it, please know that the agricultural community is here for you! And if you need someone to talk to, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, the Farm Aid Hotline at 800-327-6243 or the Avera Health Farm and Rural Stress Hotline at 1-800-691-4336.

While we face our own battles at home as we practice “social distancing,” I know everyone is trying to gather as much information as possible to remain informed as this pandemic rages on.
Here are some articles and resources as they relate to agriculture. Please, send me additional links that you feel might be great to share with readers. I can be reached at amanda.radke@informa.com.

1. “COVID-19 and livestock: Is there a connection?” by Russ Daly, SDSU Extension veterinarian, professor, state public health veterinarian

Daly writes, “Despite its likely animal origin, the current coronavirus causing COVID-19 hasn’t yet made animals sick where human illnesses have been common. That’s the good news for our animals. Swings in global financial markets have occurred due to worries about restrictions on travel and other human activity, not any perceived problem with livestock or the food supply.”

2. “Impacts of coronavirus on food markets” by Jayson Lusk, food and agricultural economist

Lusk writes, “Much of the information we have at this point on which items are stocking-out is anecdotal, but there do seem to be some common trends in what I see in my own local stores and commentary online. For example, it seems many of the new plant-based burgers are being left behind while the rest of the meat case is being cleared.

“I was surprised to see in my own local store, that virtually all the beef was gone (except for a bit of ground beef), about half the pork was gone, and chicken was plentiful. This must say something about people’s psychology to go for the highest-price, perishable produce in this time of panic; that or differences in supply chain issues, but more on that later.”

3. “U.S. under pressure to keep slaughterhouses open during virus outbreak” by Tom Polansek for Reuters

According to the article, “The USDA is seeking to reassure meat producers it will keep slaughterhouses staffed with federal inspectors as fears about potential shutdowns due to the new coronavirus hammer livestock prices and fuel concerns about food supplies. Livestock markets have been hit hard as the spread of the virus threatens workers that companies rely on to process and inspect meat.”

4. “Chinese agriculture drone makers see demand rise amid coronavirus outbreak” by Wendy Ye for CNBC

Ye writes, “Large farms, local governments and agricultural products distributors are buying high-tech equipment as the spread of the coronavirus puts an impetus on reducing human contact. The interest in agricultural technology products and services also comes as the Chinese government has stepped up its efforts to reduce reliance on food imports from the U.S. and other countries over the last few years.”

Finally, be sure to keep an eye on the USDA’s COVID-19 page for updates on how this pandemic is directly impacting agriculture. The BEEF team will also be working diligently to provide you with updates as they come in.

Reference that page by clicking here.

Oh, and if COVID-19 has you down, don’t worry, the BEEF team is going to work hard to cheer you up in the days to come. Next week, we will be launching a new photo contest celebrating the peaceful views of the ranch!

So this weekend, as you spend time at home, surrounded by cattle and loved ones, snap some photos to share with us! Details of the contest will be announced on Monday!

Stay safe. Be healthy. Wash your hands. Eat beef. And if you’re the praying type, now would be a good time to send up a few extra prayers! And remember, this, too, shall pass! God Bless!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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