Friday, March 20, 2020

Economic disruption from coronavirus could cost small farmers and ranchers dearly, new research says

The closure of restaurants, farmers' markets, and other local and regional customers of farmers and ranchers could cause up to a $688 million decline in sales from March to May, according to a new analysis by a former official in USDA's Local Food Research and Development Division, along with researchers at Colorado State University and the University of Missouri. The researchers predict a payroll decline of up to $103.3 million and a total loss to the economy of up to $1.32 billion during that time period. The paper has been circulating on Capitol Hill, Philip Brasher reports for AgriPulse.

About 159,000 farms and ranches sold food to local and regional markets in 2017. The vast majority, 85 percent, are small farmers, and one-quarter are beginners, according to the study. "Congress or USDA should waive limitations on the ability of feeding programs to procure locally and regionally produced foods, and farmers should be encouraged to integrate online ordering and sales into their businesses, the paper says," Brasher reports.

"The latest Senate stimulus does not cover USDA programs or farmers, but that could change," Catherine Boudreau reports for Politico's Morning Agriculture. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association requested direct financial aid for ranchers in the next emergency aid package, and the National Corn Growers Association plans to make a similar request.

Farmers might soon face a different kind of squeeze, too: the U.S. recently closed its consulates in Mexico, which processes migrant farmworker visas under the H-2A program, Geoffrey Mohan reports for the Los Angeles Times.

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