There are more than 2 million farms throughout the United States, yet ranchers and farmers make up a mere 1.3% of the American workforce. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that people and not robots, farm the natural foods that we may take for granted because they overflow supermarket shelves and farmers’ markets. Farmers working through COVID-19 have continued to supply Americans with their needed and desired food products, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time for them. In fact, from 2012-2019, farmers producing essentials such as corn and soybeans, as well as raising cattle and hogs, have faced falling profits while production prices have steadily increased. To illustrate just how serious that problem is in certain farming sectors, corn producers who once received $6.89 per bushel experienced a 48% drop in profit as they received only $3.56 per bushel as of 2019. Farming throughout COVID-19 only exacerbated the logistical and production costs associated with agriculture.
It’s estimated that by the end of 2020, about 110,000 eating and dining establishments throughout the country closed for good. That’s important because the decimation of the restaurant sector amplified the crisis that farmers experienced throughout COVID-19 since they lost crucial customers. That wasn’t all — other large-scale buyers such as schools and hotels closed down. While the average consumer might have experienced a localized food shortage as Americans hoarded food and self-care products at the height of the pandemic, farmers had a glut of perishable products. It resulted in them unwillingly destroying what they couldn’t donate to food banks and Meal on Wheels programs that absorbed as much as they could from farmers, but faced logistical constraints themselves since they didn’t have enough refrigerators to store perishable goods, nor volunteers to pick up and deliver them. In fact, as of April 2020, for instance, the number one American dairy cooperative, the Dairy Farmers of America, reported that farmers had to dump as much as 3.7 million gallons of milk daily. Just one chicken processor alone reported smashing 750,000 eggs weekly. In short, it was a disaster in terms of food wastage, their livelihood, and by all accounts, their mental health as well.
The upheaval that COVID-19 caused throughout the farming industry almost bankrupted many farmers who continued to work out of financial desperation, as well as a sense of responsibility. Though American farming life may seem an idyllic contrast to the 9-to-5 bustle, in reality many farm families also rely on spouses, usually women, to work those jobs in order to supplement their thin profit margins and for their family to receive health insurance. With COVID-19, many farmers operated at a loss to keep their farm going until the pandemic died down. Given that throughout COVID-19, farm loan delinquency rates increased throughout the country, it’s no surprise that farmers who dumped many fresh products are eager to make up for loss time as the USA continues its fast-paced recovery.