American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall discussed the importance of keeping America's farms afloat during the pandemic, explaining the struggles before COVID-19 struck and how the agricultural community has dealt since.
With natural disasters — including extreme rains, hurricanes, and fires — farmers have struggled to maintain their fields, produce crops, and get their produce to market. Additionally, the trade war in China targeted agriculture and deflated prices even further, according to Duvall.
Then the pandemic struck, causing crops to get plowed under, farmers to lose their workforce, and the inability to get produce to market. Income farmers have received has decreased 20-40 percent, according to Duvall.
“It’s what we call ‘the perfect storm’ that agriculture has been going through,” said Duvall.
He explained bankruptcy among farmers has increased 23 percent over the last 12 months. He expects bankruptcies to continue through the pandemic.
Duvall explained most farmers make very little profit. The costs of equipment, labor, shipping, and rent on their land — many farmers do not own the land on which they grow — often drives farmers to the bank for loans.
The farmers’ goal is to make a return on their crop to pay off their loans and continue farming. However, Duvall said agriculture is a risky business.
“It is a risky business, but we do it for our American people. It’s our way of life,” said Duvall.
The combination of natural disasters, the trade war with China, and COVID-19 has led to increased bankruptcies and decreased profits for farmers throughout the Country.
According to Duvall, the farming income has gone down about 50 percent since 2012-2013 and shows no sign of slowing due to current circumstances.
“So that, just to give you the indication that things, financially, are really, really bad,” said Duvall.
With the $19 billion in aid for farmers announced in May by President Trump, some farmers are finding small pockets of relief.
“The pandemic made Americans understand that the food chain and food industry is very important,” said Duvall.