A full year in a pandemic. What did it mean for agriculture?
Dates and Deadlines
3/19/2021 – Cattle on Feed
3/23/2021 – Perryton Farmland Leasing Workshop
4/9/2021 – *New* QLA Application Deadline
4/13,15,20,22/2021 – Developing a Drought Management Plan for the Ranch Webinar Series
What I’m Reading
Livestock merit second look for latent storm effects – AgriLife Today
Elevated wildfire forecast for Texas Plains, Trans Pecos – Southwest Farm Press
A year ago, I spent the week of March 9 – March 13 on the road. Monday, March 9th I drove to visit with producers in Lipscomb County about corn marketing plans for the rest of the year. On March 10th, I turned around and visited several dairies and a custom cattle feeder in Dallam County. By the end of the week, professional sports leagues were cancelling the remainder of their seasons. The first round of famous folks began to announce that they had contracted COVID-19. That unusual thing with the toilet paper was taking off. Quickly, the world as we knew it completely changed.
Rather than offering management tools or marketing thoughts today, I wanted to provide resources from around the U.S., and the world, on the impacts of the pandemic on agriculture. I see no need to harp on what everyone knows; the last year has been a struggle. As of today (3/15/2021) the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 sits around 534 thousand. Of those lost, about 46.5 thousand were Texans. Shutdowns took an economic toll on everyone in the supply chain. But farmers and ranchers and our partners along the supply chain rose to the challenge.
What Farmers and Ranchers Did
Farmers and ranchers still did the hard work of feeding and clothing the U.S. As a group in 2021, the U.S. agriculture industry:
- Produced 27 billion pounds of beef
- Harvested 37 million acres of wheat
- Produced 28 billion pounds of pork
- Harvested 83 million acres of corn
- Produced 138 million pounds of lamb and mutton
- Harvested 5 million acres of sorghum
- Produced 50 billion pounds of poultry
- Harvested 82 million acres of soybeans
- Produced 223 billion pounds of milk
- Harvested 9 million acres of cotton
To date, those commodities were used to provide 145 million food boxes were distributed through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program. This hard work and the hard work of those along the supply chain served to reassure those customers who visited the store early on in the pandemic to see fewer products, or in some cases, empty shelves.
Ideas Out of, and Consequences of the Pandemic
COVID-19 highlighted the importance of the farm and ranch sector to the larger economy. It also increased consumer interest in where food comes from. This presents challenges and opportunities for our sector. The post-pandemic challenges really aren’t all that different from pre-pandemic, they just seem more urgent, and the public at large seems to know more about them.
For producers, the pandemic highlighted the need to be incredibly nimble in marketing our crops and livestock. It also highlighted the opportunities and challenges of taking advantage of downstream markets. The pandemic also highlighted just how interconnected our global agricultural markets are.
For consumers, the pandemic highlighted the true challenges of producing food. Our customers became acquainted with the idea that food doesn’t just come from a store. If the industry plays its cards right, this is a positive force. Allowing consumers to see the story of their food and the people that get it to them will increase their connection with and stake in the process. There is an opportunity to find, and create advocates.
Articles on the COVID-19 Pandemic and It’s Impacts on Agriculture
I could continue to wind my way down the many detailed paths and sub-issues in agriculture brought on by the pandemic. Obviously, books will be written about the subject for years. I thought it might be more prudent for today to to provide links to some of the insightful posts I’ve seen about COVID-19’s impact on agriculture in the last year. In a shameless bit of self promotion, I’ve included a link to ‘Beef Cattle Markets and COVID-19’, which I co-authored with Dr. Charley Martinez and Dr. Joshua Maples.
Beef Cattle Markets and COVID‐19 – Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy
HOW THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC WILL ACCELERATE DIGITAL AGRICULTURE – Successful Farming