Farmers are used to adversity. Along with trade conflicts, weak commodity prices and fluctuating weather, farmers must now consider the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Life has changed as we know it. We’re all trying to figure out what this is and how it will affect agriculture,” said Robin Reid Kansas State University agricultural economist during an April 8 webinar. The event was one of two offered for women in agriculture.
In many cases, one parent is either working from home or has an off-farm job to go to while the other parent is planting spring crops or tending livestock.
“In highly volatile times, no one is going to stop eating, but we are learning a lot about how the supply chain works and how it can be disrupted,” said LaVell Winsor, agricultural economist with the K-State Research and Extension Farm Analyst program..
According to Winsor, the pandemic is a “black swan” event – one that could not be predicted or planned for but could have catastrophic effects. The spread of COVID-19 and resulting stay-at-home orders, business closures and potential supply chain disruptions due to transportation or labor difficulties are presenting more uncertainty and anxiety.
Dairy, beef cattle, hogs and corn have been hit the hardest, Reid said, adding that the corn market received a double whammy – the oil trade war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which has driven oil and gasoline prices lower, plus less demand for ethanol because the pandemic-related stay-at-home orders means drivers are driving less.
About one-third of ethanol plants are predicted to close, Reid said, which reduces the need for corn.
Because of the predicted plant closures, an estimated 200 million to 500 million fewer bushels of corn will be needed this year compared with last.
“USDA had projected a $3.60 Marketing Year Average for this year’s corn crop,” Reid said. “I don’t believe that estimate will last because of the factors that are bringing corn prices down.”
U.S. grain sorghum prices, on the other hand, are strengthening because China is making purchases.
Wheat are up because countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are stockpiling wheat for domestic consumption.
“As bread is flying off the shelves, we’ve seen more demand for wheat. That’s really the biggest boost,” Reid said.
Agricultural processors cannot always change quickly, which adds uncertainty to farmers deciding what crops to grow or how much milk or meat to produce.
“I can’t emphasize this enough -- continue to look at your farm financials,” Winsor said. “None of us feel very secure right now. Stay the course, and follow your plan, but make adjustments if needed.”
Other tips include:
•Discuss a farm safety plan.
•Be empowered to make decisions.
•Review marketing plans.
•Consider shifting crops.
Go to K-State Farm Analyst Program for guidance.