Efforts underway to assist agriculture industry amid coronavirus pandemic


DALLAS (NewsNation) — The salt-of-the-earth industry that keeps us fed and keeps America operating day in and day out has been hit hard by the pandemic. With issues ranging from COVID-19 to raging storms, agriculture as a whole feeling the blow.

According to research from the United States Food and Drug Administration (USDA), prices for almost every major at-home food category rose due to the pandemic. The virus packing a punch on the nation’s food supply chain and consumers’ spending habits.

“The big farms, corporate farms, are doing well,” said Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. “The small farms are the ones that are struggling right now.”

Numbers from the USDA study show that pork and egg prices increased by 12%t. Beef went up a whopping 25%, and farms feel the brunt of that expense. Lawmakers and advocates asking the USDA to distribute more coronavirus relief funds to the Davids instead of the Goliaths.

“If we don’t, the impact is going to be even more bankruptcies and farms going out of business,” said Rob LaRue with the National Farmer’s Union.

What about nuts? Without a baseball season to fill fans up on peanuts and Cracker Jacks, surely those peanut farmers are reeling in losses. The opposite, actually. Crop producers tell News Nation that COVID-19 has been a blessing for the peanut industry because of one thing – peanut butter.

When quarantine ramped up, peanut butter was one of the hottest commodities to fly off store shelves. And with more children learning at home, parents are making PB&J sandwiches that aren’t allowed in schools.

However, it’s not just the virus – it’s been a double whammy with 2020 storms like the inland hurricane that just leveled a third of Iowa’s crops this week. State climatologists say Iowa easily saw Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane winds.

And Hurricane Hanna whose July wrath devastated 300,000 bales of cotton across southern Texas.

Today, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested a disaster declaration assistance from the USDA — citing substantially affected producers and severe production losses.

Countless farmers also rely on visitors to come tour their property for fruit picking and public events. Diane Allen runs a lavender farm in New York, which she had to shut down due to health and legal concerns.

“It’s not clear to us as a business,” Allen said. “If someone were to say I went to your farm and caught COVID, what would our liability have been? I’m a good Samaritan kidney donor. I love lavender, but I’m not willing to die for it.”

Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller says every crop and product are impacted differently during the pandemic depending on society’s needs. He says the best way to help alleviate some of these losses is to buy and eat local — it doesn’t get fresher, and that help goes straight to the source.

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