How Coronavirus is Impacting Farmers
By Lily Erb, Content Writer
When shopping for groceries, how often do you stop and think about where your food comes from? For most, the thought doesn’t go past a quick glance at a sticker that reads “Product of California” or any other major growing state. The convenience of grocery stores has disconnected us from understanding the source of our food. Isolated in the cities and suburbs, many of us fail to consider the lives of the people who grow our food. Like us, farmers’ livelihoods and businesses have been impacted by the coronavirus.
Coronavirus has presented numerous new problems to the farming industry. With lockdown orders in place, restaurants were forced to close down. Many restaurants remained completely closed, while some opted to remain open for curbside take-out only. Due to reduced business, restaurants no longer needed to buy the typical amount of produce. The decrease in purchases drove demand for food way down, leaving farmers stuck with produce they couldn’t sell. The New York Times reports that farmers are dumping millions of gallons of milk, plowing over ripe cabbages and beans, and burying a million pounds of unused onions. Grocery stores saw an increase in sales as more people cooked meals at home, but it was not enough to offset the incredible waste of produce farmers are seeing. Many farmers say that they have donated a portion of their unsold produce to food banks and programs like meals on wheels, but the perishable nature of their produce inhibits them from donating everything.
The Trump Administration is providing funding to farmers who have been hit hard by the pandemic, but the amount of funding is not enough to offset the damage done. According to Time, the net income for farmers is expected to decline by $20 billion. Trump’s trade war with China also hit American farmers hard, as China was one of America’s largest trading partners. For the previous years, farmers have taken on considerable loss as they were not able to export goods to China. This year, a new trade deal was struck with China, which would have proved beneficial if Covid-19 hadn’t incapicated China. Farmers who expected an economic boost were met with a downward spike in income.
Coronavirus also put farm workers at an increased risk. Bloomberg reports that one farm in Tennessee administered Covid-19 tests to all of its field workers. The results of the test came back positive for every single worker, roughly 200 employees infected. PBS reports that farm workers are one of the most at risk demographics for contracting Covid-19. Many farm workers live with extended family members, carpool to their jobs, and work closely to other workers, making social distancing impossible. While many workers acknowledge the risk, they choose to work anyway for fear of losing their jobs. These factors present an extremely high risk of spreading Covid-19 among rural communities where many people support their families by working on farms.
Coronavirus has affected us all, even the essential workers who grow and harvest our food. Please click the links below for additional resources on this issue:
Photo courtesy of Forbes.com