In a previous article, we discussed how the coronavirus and the current pandemic will affect food supply in the U.S., dispelling some of the rumors circulating the internet. Now, we will examine the coronavirus’s affect on agriculture and aquaculture since then.
Coronavirus’s Affect on Agriculture: Supply and Demand
As Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has stated, the current issue is with demand rather than supply. If your local grocery store’s shelves are empty, it’s because the demand for some items–such as milk, eggs, cheese, and meat–has decreased. It is not because we are running out of food. Not yet, anyway.
Restaurants, schools, and places of entertainment were prominent markets for the dairy industry. With non-essential businesses closing, however, there are fewer customers, which means dairy farmers must dump their supply.
In the case of the meat industry, things are a little different. Livestock farmers, especially pork and beef farmers, have been hit with a flood of employee COVID-19 cases. As employees are sent home sick, there are fewer people to work the farms, and therefore, farms are going out of business. In fact, 36 farmers have already filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy this year.
Corn farmers have also been affected, as ethanol plant closures have reduced the demand for corn.
Under certain conditions, the U.S. won’t run out of food. But right now, these conditions are struggling to be met, which means we could very well run out of food by the fall. So what are these conditions?
Right now, we need more workers and laborers. The U.S. has had issues with finding field laborers in the past, as our conventional migrant workers have decided not to cross the border in recent years. You can read more about this here.
But now, there are fewer people to work the fields as more and more become ill. Crops are being left to rot because there are no laborers to pick them, which is a problem we had before the virus. If we keep the amount of farm workers stable then we might not see food shortages, as long as another condition is met.
Of course, even if there are people to work on the farms, our farmers still need to be paid. With markets closing, there are no customers to whom our farmers can sell their produce, dairy, and meat. Without money, farmers can’t buy seeds or other essential farming equipment. As farms continue going bankrupt, we could very well see a food shortage.
The CARES Act, which President Trump passed on March 27th, will allocate money in the form of direct payments to dairy, livestock, and crop farmers. According to Sonny Purdue, they will be coming soon, but dates are not definitive at this time.
There is another market of the food supply chain that has been hit by the pandemic–one that has not been addressed nearly as much.
Coronavirus’s Affect on Aquaculture
Aquaculture has also been hit hard by the coronavirus.
According to one Floridian business, Ariel Seafoods, their production has decreased to just ten percent of its average production. The only customers they’re seeing are grocery stores. Fish markets have closed around the country, and restaurants that can’t offer delivery and drive-thru options have closed as well.
What can we do about this? Well, really, the best thing we can do is stimulate the economy by buying these products. As long as businesses can stay open and money is flowing, then we can work to solve labor shortage issues and keep food on the shelves.
If you’re worried about food shortages, you might want to plan ahead by starting your own victory garden. You can read about how to do this here.