Running a farm or a ranch is tough on a good day, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it nearly impossible for farmers and ranchers to scrape by. Livestock producers, in particular, have been shoved between a rock and a hard place.
Just before farm loan payments are due, when many farmers were looking to sell their livestock and stored grain at a time of year when commodity prices are usually high, COVID-19 hit the United States. The pandemic shut down or slowed down production at food processing plants across the country. While grocery store shelves sat empty and food prices went up, the bottom fell out of the livestock and specialty crop markets and commodity prices took a hit. That left a lot of farmers with two bad choices: sell and pay the loan or wait and pray.
Thankfully, Congress took action to help farmers and ranchers through this difficult time. I, along with my colleagues,worked with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which has already provided $1.4 billion to help keep family farms together. To be clear, this program isn’t about lining the pockets of farmers, it’s about trying to make them whole for losses caused by government mandates and shutdowns that nobody saw coming. The first round of CFAP payments helped avoid a crisis for many, but hardly covered the losses they suffered.
This, compounded by last year’s record flooding, has made for a difficult few years for farmers, but we’re no stranger to tough times. Many have adapted quickly to meet consumer demand and bypass processing plants altogether, selling meat, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products directly to consumers. The University of Missouri-Extension and Missouri Farm Bureau have both put together new online tools to help connect Missourians to these farmers selling directly to consumers. You can check out UM-Extension’s Food Finder Tool at mofoodfinder.org and Missouri Farm Bureau’s meat directory here at mofb.org/missouri-meat-producers.
Undoubtedly, the road to recovery will be long and hard for many families, both families who farm and families who don’t. The bottom line is this: to fully recover, we have to reopen America.
In Missouri, we’re doing just that as Governor Parson announced that the state will fully reopen for business on Tuesday, June 16th. This is definitely some much-needed good news. There will still be many challenges ahead, but I’m glad we are moving to get our country back on track and get Americans back to work.
Sam Graves is the Mo. Sixth District U.S. Representative.