Coronavirus, COVID-19, ‘Rona, Covy – the pandemic that has spread across the world goes by many different names, but no matter what you call the novel virus, it can’t be denied it has affected our everyday lives.
Those in rural America have had it easier in some regards. Remaining busy with calving season and pre-planting preparations has made social distancing less of a daunting task, but it is not all peaches and cream for America’s agriculturalists.
We have all seen the press. The wool market is all but non-existent, milk is being dumped on the ground and commodity futures are a little shaky. Shortly after Easter, the ag industry received another blow with the closure of a Smithfield packing plant in South Dakota due to a large number of employees falling ill with COVID-19. That particular plant was one of our county’s largest processors of pork and the closure makes producers and consumers uneasy.
Talk of the coronavirus is all-consuming, even downright depressing for some. Sure, right now things are a bit precautious, but what about the future? It’s going take a while, but realistically a vaccine will eventually be available and hopefully at some point the virus itself has to run out of steam.
So how do we as a nation begin to heal if that point is ever reached? How do we make up for the lost generation of college grads and 4-H livestock producers who have been robbed of their 2020 project end celebrations? How do we reboot an economy and repair agriculture commodity prices that have been rocked?
The answer may be as complex as the problem, but could it be possible that some good could come from all of this? Who really knows what will become of the recent bi-lateral trade agreements that have been made, but domestically there is speculation that once the country opens back up there could be a rocketing demand for agricultural products.
As an industry, American agriculture has weathered many storms. Some starting operations managed to make it through the Dust Bowl and a good portion of producers emerged from the farm crisis of the 1980’s, albeit by the skin of their teeth. The point is, after night there is always dawn and following an economic depression agricultural producers often enjoy a period of prosperity.
Agriculture has always been a game of chance. It is a lifestyle whose success is determined solely be variables completely out of the control of the producer. COVID-19 is another one of those uncontrollable curveballs, but now may be a time to circle the wagons, dig in our heels and show some resiliency.
Now may also be a great time to advocate for the industry. With the mass majority of society glued to technology to pass the time, the current times present a perfect opportunity for farmers and ranchers to share their story via a digital platform. All producers can collaborate and learn from this situation so we can be better prepared for the next crisis, which is hopefully many moons down the road.
This too shall pass, and when it does, as a county and as an industry we will continue to forge ahead.