Six possible impacts to farmers amid COVID-19


As COVID-19 continues to impact the economy what could the virus mean for farmers?

Successful Farming spoke with Mark Stephenson and John Shutske with the University of Wisconsin-Madison who say there are six specific things farmers, farm families, ag employers, and employees need to be aware of and plan for.

1. Markets and Farm Prices

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 has taken center stage as bars, restaurants, schools and many businesses are closing down to promote social distancing. That, naturally, will have an impact on how we consume our food. These changes in spending will likely have an impact on markets and prices. Dairy prices are expected to be hit especially hard.

2.Supply Chain Slowdowns and Shortages

Logistics are being disrupted to prevent the spread of the virus and multiple connected industry sectors are already being impacted. “Panic buying” is creating additional concerns. If the virus were to spread in an agricultural state there could be issues with farm pickup and deliveries. Slowdowns could also impact fertilizer, fuel, and other input movement and availability as we head toward spring.

3. Farmer’s Health

The 2017 ag census showed the average age of a midwest farm operator to be nearly 58-years old, 26% were 65 and up, and 11.7% were 75 and older. Numbers form other countries show COVID-19 has been the most severe in those ages 60 and over. This means preventative measures are vital for the ag industry.

4. Workforces

With many already being requested to work from home and many more having to stay home to care for the sick, workforces will take a hit. With school closings, many parents will have to miss work to take care of their children as it is becoming increasingly difficult to find childcare.

5. Worker Safety and Personal Protective Equipment

There are shortages of PPE and other protective equipment vital for operating a farm safely and keeping workers and animals healthy. For example, N-95 masks are needed by healthcare professionals to protect themselves. Those masks are also used in the spring for handling dusty grain. There are also concerns over the availability of protective gloves.

6. Other Disruptions

Many gathering places like schools and churches are being closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many classes are now being taught online, and for rural students that can be an issue if there is no access to high-speed internet.

For all updates on the Coronavirus and how it impacts Rural America, visit our Coronavirus outbreak hub.