Farmers outlined their concerns in a Farm Bureau survey about how the pandemic affected farmers across the country. Among top concerns was the difficulty they faced getting equipment during the shutdown. Another was disrupted processing and inspection schedules.
They interviewed 377 farmers, and of that group 95 percent were Farm Bureau members. Farm Bureau officials used the data to come up with a series of recommendations. Those recommendations were for everyone from heads of federal agencies to individual farmers.
“We already have learned important lessons from the past few months,” Farm Bureau officials said in a statement on their website. “Many growers who were already under stress from seasonal imports in early spring saw that situation get even worse.”
While there are ways farmers can get help to survive the current shutdown, the Bureau is looking beyond this year. Officials reminded folks it took years to recover from the 1929 Great Depression and the 2008 Great Recession.
After surveying farmers and identifying their challenges, they turned the data over to state and federal officials. The reason for the recommendations, Farm Bureau officials said, is to hopefully speed up the current recovery for farmers. They outlined ways pandemic affected farmers could move forward.
Significant Survey Data Points for Pandemic Affected Farmers
In the study, grain farmers told the Bureau it’s been hard to do their jobs over the last few months. That backed up data from a separate study by the Association of Wheat Growers in May where 80 percent of U.S. wheat farmers said they had been impacted in some way.
Specifically, according to the Bureau data, one in every eight farmers reported disruptions in getting equipment. Additionally, repair parts for farm equipment were unavailable. As factories shut down, so did the supply chain for replacement parts.
Other concerns included disruptions in processing and inspection schedules that caused long delays in grain sales transactions. Rural transportation challenges also worsened with decreased state transportation revenues. And the lack of flexibility with the H-2A visa program that many farmers rely on to harvest and process agricultural products.
Despite their challenges, the Bureau’s study showed many grain farmers didn’t apply for available federal help. In fact, only 13.4 percent of all U.S. farmers applied for the Paycheck Protection Program. It was open to any business that had 500 or fewer employees. It was unclear why.
Even the Food Assistance Program, set up to assist farmers, only had 50 percent enrollment. Know that if you’re a pandemic affected farmer and just now hearing about this program, don’t worry. There’s still time to apply. To qualify, you need to prove your farm suffered a five percent or greater price decline. Another way to qualify is if your farm “had losses due to market supply chain disruptions” from the COVID-19 shutdown.
The Farm Bureau’s Recommendations
With all that in mind, Bureau President Zippy Duvall outlined several recommendations in a letter on the group’s website. First, he said that grain farmers need access to credit. Specifically, he asked Congress to give the U.S. Department of Agriculture “the authority and adequate funding to step in and stabilize the farm economy in the event of further or future disruption.”
Beyond that, Duvall asked that the Department of Agriculture be given authority to coordinate and oversee all agriculture initiatives in the country. Under his request, all other agencies would have to coordinate projects with the Department of Agriculture, creating some certainty.
Pandemic affected farmers would know exactly where to go or who to call to get their questions answered if everything went through the Department of Agriculture, Duvall argued. “We’ve had enough uncertainty,” Duvall said. “One of the best things our government can do to help kickstart the farm economy is to commit to long-range policies.”
It’ll take time to re-establish all the supply chains and markets, Duvall argued. While that’s happening, farmers shouldn’t have to worry about what agency to deal with, or what regulations are in place. Having one agency in charge would solve that.
Duvall also recommended two other things. First, that farmers receive top priority both for testing of personal protective equipment and distribution. Second, he asked for more coordination between federal and state governments.
What Grain Farmers Can Do to Help Themselves
Since the study’s recommendations have just now been sent to Congress, it will be months, if not longer before any policies change. The same goes for prices. As of July 1, soybeans sold for $8.63 per bushel. Last year, you could sell the same for $9.14.
If you don’t want to sell at such a reduced price, be prepared for longer storage times as export markets rebuild. That means reevaluating your on-farm grain storage facilities. You’ll need to monitor grain temperature and maintain bin equipment to avoid crop damage while you wait.
Tri-States Grain Conditioning has grain storage specialists ready to help you evaluate your long-term storage needs and equip your grain bins with state-of-the-art remote grain monitoring systems. Give us a call at 712 336 0199.
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