Commodity “COVID-19” Farming
In addition to being the Midwest director for AFT, I also farm about 700 acres of corn, soybeans, and cover crops in south-central Illinois. Planting season is upon us, and many of the commodity farmers here in the Midwest must get out in the field, so we are not able to stay at home. When it is time to plant, it needs to get done.
In the last couple of weeks, while practicing social distancing, I’ve been thinking a lot about multi-generation farms. A lot of older farmers are having to distance themselves from the family members they farm with. While farmers are, for the most part, used to spending hours by themselves, many farmers rely on those small interactions with their family members, seed dealers, and co-ops to provide social stimulus and to get the work done. I am grateful to be able to do many of the tasks I need to get done in the field with my type of farming and my family.
The real impact for commodity farmers, such as myself, may come from the supply chain and if the inputs needed will be delivered to them on time. Retailers and farm co-ops are finding creative ways to get individuals their products, like by creating docu-sign agreements and other smaller changes. Commodity farmers can do a lot of our daily activities without a whole lot of face-to-face interaction. But 2019 was a hard year for farmers, and depending on how 2020 goes, it might be just as hard if not harder. There are still some deep-seated impacts that commodity farmers are facing, but not at the level that direct-market farmers are having to go through.
I know that many of us are aware of the concerns with direct-market producers, and that they don’t have a financial safety net like what my type of farming operation might have. There will be a lot of failed direct-market partnerships with restaurants due to closures. I think that a huge concern with these farmers is that they are also needing to think about what types of crops they need to invest in growing without knowing which product is in demand. These are just a few out of the many uncertainties and decisions that direct-market farmers must make based off how consumers will react.
On a positive note, some of these direct-market producers are finding creative ways to distribute their products, such as doing door-to-door deliveries. I have faith that we will figure this out together and we will come out stronger because of this. I am proud to be a part of an organization that has launched a Farmer Relief Fund to directly support these farmers impacted by the current crisis. One hundred percent of donations to the fund will go directly to farmers.
We really need to gather more support and donations to continue this relief fund. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us everywhere, and so with more donations and financial aid, I know that we could bring relief to many of our Midwest farmers. American Farmland Trust is working to assist as many farmers as we can during this troubling time. We feel the best way to do that is by giving 100% of donations through our Farmer Relief Fund to farmers via up to $1,000 cash grants to help those affected by COVID-19 market disruptions. I hope everyone will consider giving a gift of donation. Thank you to all our community members and supporters!