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Wuhan Coronavirus Shutdowns Hitting America’s Farms

Wuhan Coronavirus Shutdowns Hitting America’s Farms

Vegetable, fruit, dairy, and chicken farmers across the nation have a surplus of produce, milk, eggs, etc. that they are dumping, letting rot, or plowing under due to severely decreased demand

Our nation’s economy is being severely challenged during this nationwide Wuhan coronavirus pandemic shutdown.  Not only are people losing their jobs in jaw-dropping, heart-breaking numbers, but businesses big and small are really struggling.

Among these struggling businesses are those in our agriculture sector.  We keep hearing reassurances that our supply chain is strong, that grocery stores are restocking, and at least in my area, this is true.  So far.

But there are signs that the center may not hold if this national/global lockdown continues.  Not only are truckers sounding the alarm, but our nation’s farmers are also struggling.

Vegetable, fruit, dairy, and chicken farmers across the nation have a surplus of produce, milk, eggs, etc. that they are dumping, letting rot, or plowing under due to severely decreased demand from restaurants, schools, etc. closed due to the Wuhan coronavirus shutdowns.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

It was still dark outside at four o’clock on a recent morning when a tanker truck poured 6,000 gallons of milk into a manure pit on Nancy Mueller’s Wisconsin dairy farm.

The milk, collected from Mueller Dairy Farm’s 1,000 cows, should have been hauled to dairy processors across the state for bottling or to be turned into cheese. But the coronavirus pandemic is disrupting all that, closing restaurants and schools that buy the nation’s dairy products—and forcing hard choices for farmers like Mrs. Mueller.

“It was heart-wrenching,” she said.

Farmers and food companies across the country are throttling back production as the virus creates chaos in the agricultural supply chain, erasing sales to restaurants, hotels and cafeterias despite grocery stores rushing to restock shelves. American producers stuck with vast quantities of food they cannot sell are dumping milk, throwing out chicken-hatching eggs and rendering pork bellies into lard instead of bacon.

In part, that is because they can’t easily shift products bound for restaurants into the appropriate sizes, packages and labels necessary for sale at supermarkets. Few in the agricultural industry expect grocery store demand to offset the restaurant market’s steep decline.

Farms are plowing under hundreds of acres of vegetables in prime U.S. growing regions like Arizona and Florida. Chicken companies are shrinking their flocks, to curb supplies that could weigh on prices for months to come.

In Florida, “mounds” of nutrient-rich and delicious zucchini, squash, and tomatoes were left to rot, and in California, mountains of greens, veggies, and fruit were plowed under or left to rot.  In Vermont and Wisconsin, dairy farmers dumped who knows how many gallons of “surplus” milk.

“This is a catastrophe,” said tomato grower Tony DiMare, who owns farms in south Florida and the Tampa Bay area. “We haven’t even started to calculate it. It’s going to be in the millions of dollars. Losses mount every day.”

Florida leads the U.S. in harvesting tomatoes, green beans, cabbage and peppers this time of year. While some of the crops are meant for grocery stores, many farmers cater solely to the so-called food service market — restaurants, schools and theme parks — hit hard as cities and states have ordered people to stay home and avoid others.

The loss has created a domino effect through the farming industry, Florida’s second-largest economic driver. It yields $155 billion in revenue and supports about 2 million jobs.

Many growers have donated produce to food banks, but there’s a limit on what the charities can accept and storage is an issue for perishable fruits and vegetables. DiMare said some central Florida food banks are full after theme parks shuttered and donated massive amounts of produce.



But there are innovations taking place that are intended to address this travesty and to help both our agriculture sector and our newly unemployed.

For example, in Florida, our agriculture commissioner has generated a frequently-updated “Farm to You” list to help consumers purchase directly from Florida farms.

To help Florida’s farmers stay afloat during this difficult time, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have created the “Florida Farm To You” commodities list.

The list, which is updated daily, aims to connect potential buyers with producers of Florida-grown commodities, like fresh fruits and veggies, seafood, poultry and other fresh food items.

Buyers, food banks and other consumers looking for a specific item can click here, find and select the agricultural or seafood commodity they’re looking for in the dropdown menu and get contact information for growers offering that item throughout Florida.

Another aspect of this plan, of course, is to promote the buying of U.S. produce, eggs, dairy, etc.

Fried has also asked large retailers, including Publix, Walmart and Whole Foods to stock more Florida-grown commodities in their stores.

“We have worked tirelessly to support Florida’s farmers during COVID-19 by connecting them with buyers and consumers, and our Florida Farm To You commodities list is the latest way we’re doing so,” Fried said. “There’s no silver bullet to solving the decreased demand from foodservice businesses, but by connecting our agricultural producers with willing takers, we can help move Florida-grown products from fields to consumers.”

One of the worrying aspects of the current situation for farmers is that much of the grocery store produce is contracted to foreign suppliers.  This leaves American farmers at a disadvantage.

ABC News reports:

Farmers are scrambling to sell to grocery stores, but it’s not easy. Large chains already have contracts with farmers who grow for retail — many from outside the U.S.

“We can’t even give our product away, and we’re allowing imports to come in here,” DiMare said.

Likewise, much of the back-breaking work of working our nation’s farms has long gone to immigrant laborers.


But why can’t Americans pick, pack, and ship American agricultural products?

In light of travel restrictions due to the Wuhan coronavirus, the UK has placed a call to its people to enlist in a “land army” to “pick for Britain.”

This is a patriotic (and necessary) call to mobilize the populace to hit the UK’s farms and start getting the job of feeding a nation done.

Farmers are missing 80,000 fruit pickers and factory staff as foreign seasonal workers are banned in the coronavirus crisis.

Experts warned the UK is facing a potential disaster with as much as 3.8million tons of produce set to be dumped.

Unless the country can mobilise to “pick for victory” we are ­facing losing 170million apples, 13.2million pears, 12.4million plums and 288million cherries.

Up to 1.5billion raspberries, 4billion strawberries and 5.2billion blackcurrants could also go.

The closure of chip shops due to the coronavirus lockdown has created a surplus of 188,576 tons of potatoes worth £45.3million.

Rhubarb farmer Janet Oldroyd-Hulme, of West Yorks, said: “We won’t need our foreign workers if the English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh all look to their local farms to help there.”

“Otherwise there will be fruit and vegetables that will rot.”

There is no way that tons of produce, milk, and eggs should be left to rot or to be plowed under due to this coronavirus shutdown.  The U.S. taxpayer should not be called upon to “help” via crazy, bloated, pork-filled bills that are ultimately ineffective and useless.  We can pull together and help our nation’s farmers.


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Well a dozen egg when I can find them are $5 Something is wrong with this story. Additionally, veggies are limited. I am 30 mile outside a major city. Not sure if I agree with this article.

The demand is there, so it must be logistics. Media shows food lines going to miles. So what is the true picture.

Milk is hit or miss when I go to the stores and I hit 4 different ones including 3 majors and a small one.

    Voyager in reply to MarkSmith. | April 12, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    It is the logistic chain that is failing. Basically the institution logistics chain has been shut down, but through a combination of regulations and simple shut down of the companies that would do it, they are not able to transfer product to the commercial supply chain. It’s the same issue we are seeing with toilet paper, just now with perishable goods.

    I.e. the eggs exist, you just can’t get to them, and they can’t get them to you.

    beagleEar in reply to MarkSmith. | April 12, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    This is what happens when you fracture a finally tuned interlocking logistics system with many parts. There were no disaster plans for this type of event, and limited ability to adapt on the fly.
    politicians interested only in polishing their public appearance elected by people whose minds are tuned to Facebook and television are utterly in capable of dealing with these physical realities.

      a finally tuned interlocking logistics system with many parts
      Particularly when some pieces of that system are gov’t regulations.

    Media shows food lines going to miles.
    Huh? Where?

The Friendly Grizzly | April 12, 2020 at 12:34 pm

I’m in NE Tennessee. So far, things are relatively plentiful.

BS. This is being done on purpose by the distribution chain. They are screwing both the farmer and the consumer. By telling the farmer that the demand is down they get the farmer to take less money for their goods. By telling the consumer that their is a shortage they can charge the consumer more for the goods while actually delivering less total goods. This means for the distributor that income goes up while costs go down and profits are up through the roof. The whole time they will blame the Virus. Corrupt market manipulation by corporate interests like this is why people embrace socialism.

    healthguyfsu in reply to SpaceInvader. | April 12, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    I see lots of fear mongering without any proof.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to SpaceInvader. | April 12, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    That’s why middle men have been hated down through the ages.

    Chieftain in reply to SpaceInvader. | April 13, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    There are two different distribution chains.
    One goes to supply food for grocery stores.
    The other goes to institutions (Prisons, schools, colleges, hospitals) and restaurants.
    Not only is the transport different, but so is packaging.

    The restaurant distribution packages in bulk.
    The grocery distribution has retail packaging. The retail packing machines are proably running full out, but they do not have any more capacity to package food for retail sale.
    Restaurants get lettuce by case, processed items in gallon size containers, cheese in huge bags not marked for retail sale.

    Take the example of pizza.
    Retail groceries sell premade frozen pizzas.
    Pizza joints make pizzas fresh except now they have no one in their restaurants.
    The frozen pizza makers are running full out.
    The huge bags of cheese and sauce and flour cannot be absorbed by the grocery chain frozen izza suppliers.

All unnecessary. This is truly a crime against humanity. Same as the agricultural collectivization in Russia in the 1920s where millions starved to death and later in the US in the 1930s when FDR supervised a depression to force citizens into dependency on the government. Opportunities not “wasted” by the commies. Man-made catastrophes.

“ Vegetable, fruit, dairy, and chicken farmers across the nation have a surplus of produce, milk, eggs, etc. that they are dumping, letting rot, or plowing under due to severely decreased demand from restaurants, schools, etc. closed due to the Wuhan coronavirus shutdowns.“

If you don’t eat at school then you eat at home. It’s a shift in where it’s consumed but not a drop in demand.

Article is typical superficial journalist horse manure.

Things that are different:

1) institutional shift

some that supplied the institutional market have seen a drop in demand and need to shift to consumer, but this is not packaging

There can be some short term issues in rejiggering the logistics

There is product being thrown out in the institutional side because it can’t be sold in the consumer channel (because regulations) but that doesn’t affect farmers

2) waste differences

There is a drop in demand to the extent that institutional usage produces more waste than home usage. But that shouldn’t be massive as consumer size (home, supermarket) have plenty of waste

3) shift

With so many unemployed, demand preferences shifts. So those producing some kinds of foods may see issues.

There may be other factors that are different but none of that is identified in this article. Which is why it is worthless.

Are the sob stories anecdotal? Is there real demand drop? Like to see some facts. Sounds mostly like a prelude to a corporate agribusiness bailout request.

My hats off to all the farmers, truckers and grocery store workers keeping things on track. Thank you!

    Chieftain in reply to PrincetonAl. | April 13, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    Milk in a restaurant comes in 3, 5, or 6 gallon bags that fit into a commercial dispenser.
    shredded cheese comes in 5, 10 and 15 lb bags; mayonaisse in gallon jars; eggs in stacked open trays from a case.
    The packaging and the equipment for packaging is diffenrent and the labelling (print) requirements are too.

I keep harping on this and no one listens.

1) the US and Global economies were shut down, not to save people’s lives, but to make the populace more dependent upon the largesse of their governments.

2) this was not done to save lives, but to increase control of the populace by the Establishment.

3) it is impossible to simply reset the economy overnight. Perishables take time to replenish. Lost income takes time to replenish. Some businesses will never reopen and others will not survive a diminished consumer economy. Unemployment will remain high for sometime to come. This causes a ripple effect which adversely affects the entire economy.

4) for every week the economy is shut down, it will take a month, at least, to regain the lost ground. In order for a consumer society to function, the consumer has to have an income which provides sufficient disposable income to spend on luxuries. High unemployment diminishes the amount of disposable capital available to the consumer base. This diminishes the income for none essential purchases. This impacts commercial food service, entertainment, clothing, automobiles, travel, etc. The diminished income to these businesses diminishes the income of service industries and producers. This dimin9dhes the number of people these industries can employ, which further diminishes consumer buying power. In other words, it will take at least 18 months for a semblance of normalcy to return to the US economy, if not years, if it is opened immediately. And, that is only if the public has enough disposable income left to support the resurgence of the economy.

5) the COVID virus is very unlikely to destroy the world. But, the horrendous economic actions of our political class will likely produce that result, if allowed to continue. They, and the media, are responsible for whatever happens. If COVID follows the normal tract for corona viruses, warmer weather should mitigate its effects. Of course, the pols will say that this was all the result of their actions in shutting down society. Until it reappears in the fall. Then what happens?

I have heard this is happening with dairies (I grew up on one, still some distant connections).

Milk is a tenuous commodity as it is. It’s just about as bad as oil. Most farms are so far removed from the consumer, they are at the mercy of the supply chain.

While they can do “some” things to lower production like dry cows up early, cut down on the intake of proteins etc, we are going into a season where production is cheaper (pastures are coming in). Also when a cow freshens, that’s your window.

It’s OK. Anybody can be a farmer.

Kroger no longer has deep discounts for loyal customers like they used to. I hate to hear about eggs because I’m paying three times what I used to for a dozen. I’m not saying Kroger is gouging. They are pricing based on supply and demand into and out of their stores. It’s all about unintended consequences. As long as the bar is set at one death from the Chinese flu is one too many, rational decisions by politicians whose livelihoods rely on getting re-elected, there is no resolution in the near future. Keep in mind that the decision makers, politicians, have no other skills or job prospects if they get voted out. Whether you love him or hate him, Trump really is the only guy in the mix that will have a job outside of politics in five years.

You know farmers are not allow to sell roadside or in local markets because of the Mich. Gov. order.

They ready do want us to fail don’t they.

MattLauersNob | April 13, 2020 at 1:01 am

Splain me my me veggies not going down in price? Dees shits rather destroy veggies dan feed me?

If there’s a lack of demand, it isn’t showing up at our local grocery stores, where the shelves are regularly sold out of dairy products.

“But why can’t Americans pick, pack, and ship American agricultural products?”

Americans *can*, but most won’t. Heck, why would you live in a “migrant worker” shack for three or four months, engaging in backbreaking labor for a few dollars an hour when you can sit in your air conditioned section eight housing watching your big screen TV that you bought with your welfare check while eating steak and shrimp paid for by food stamps?

In some states, you’d have to make something like $15 an hour to break even against welfare.

I grew up on a farm. Most people have no concept of how physically demanding food production really is.

It’s very hard work that pays very little and most Americans that could benefit from work like that, simply won’t do it. Why should they when they can live on the backs of taxpayers with no effort at all?

“But why don’t they just pay better wages and provide better benefits for their workers”…well…because they’re competing against produce imported from third world countries where getting paid a few dollars a day is a middle class income. Increased wages and benefits means increased prices. Prices that push them right out of the market.

Drive up to my door with a truckload of various fruits and vegetables and I’d be happy to buy some. And you can tell the police your food distribution is essential.

Drive up to my door with a truckload of various fruits and vegetables and I’d be happy to buy some. And you can tell the police your food distribution is essential.

BTW, I’ve shown no symptoms save my ordinary old man’s November-April cold, which seems to be abating at thid point.

sizes, packages and labels necessary for sale at supermarkets
The sizes is a normal market issue. The labels are an issue of regulation. (Packaging is a bit of both.)
Reduce the imbecilic “The people are stupid and we can’t let them ever get hurt” regulations and this shift wouldn’t be nearly as hard on our agriculture industry. Of course, without that mentality we also wouldn’t be under massive house arrest in this country.

It sure would help a lot if they weren’t shutting down farmer’s markets.