From dairy farmers with nowhere to send their milk and cattle ranchers reeling from plummeting beef prices, the impact of the coronavirus is rippling through farm country, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) report April 3. Corn, cotton and soybean futures tumbled, ethanol plants idled, and some fruit and vegetable farmers are finding their best option is not picking produce.
Price forecasts for most agricultural products are bleak. In the past month, dairy prices dropped 26-36%, corn futures dropped by 14%, soybean futures are down 8% and cotton futures plummeted 31%. Hog futures are down by 31%. A surge in demand for beef emptied grocery store meat aisles, but there is no lack of supply. Despite a rise in retail prices in some areas, the prices paid to cattle ranchers have fallen 25%.
“After years of a down farm economy and damaging severe weather, the COVID-19 ripple effects are forcing farmers and ranchers to face heartbreaking financial realities,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not announced how it will distribute aid from a $2 trillion stimulus package. Farmers reliant on direct consumer sales, such as farmers’ markets and U-pick farms, are also facing dramatic losses.