COVID-19 and the economic impacts on agriculture and rural policy
The CSG East Agriculture and Rural Affairs Policy Committee hosted the third in a series of three webinars examining agriculture, food, and rural issues in the age of COVID-19. The virtual meeting focused on the economics of COVID-19 as it affects farms, processing, and the rural economy.
The meeting opened with a presentation by Catherine De Ronde, senior economist at Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative. De Ronde recounted the recent history of the dairy industry, noting that it had already survived five years of low milk prices and little or no profit by the time COVID-19 arrived. Many of the traditional markets for milk were disrupted, casting the industry further into an oversupply position with still lower prices resulting. She also discussed the future of the dairy industry in the Northeast.
Stephan Goetz, PhD, an agriculture economist at Penn State University, then examined agriculture and rural issues in the age of COVID-19, including differences in rural and urban fatalities as well as consumer spending reductions. He analyzed COVID hot spots in proximity to farms, the impacts on agritourism and direct-to-consumer sales, the challenges of meat processing and the packaging industry. He also addressed consumer spending by food source before and after the shutdown.
John Newton, PhD, an economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, then addressed topics that included a look at the eight years of declining farm income prior to COVID-19, where and how people ate before and after the economic shut down and how that affected markets and processing, how demand for gasoline and clothing plummeted and how that affected agriculture. Newton also discussed how changes in packing plants affected farm income and demand, and where and how much money agriculture received from the CARES Act. Newton spent some time talking about the Food Box Program, off-farm layoffs, and their impact on the farm families.