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Agriculture roundup on COVID-19: Farmer’s hopes dip as pandemic roils markets

The Rural Blog

Here’s a roundup of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the agriculture sector:

Farmers’ hopes for a good year pushed Purdue University’s Ag Economy Barometer to a record high in February, but pandemic fears caused the barometer to plunge in March. The barometer is based on monthly surveys of 400 U.S. farmers.

“Price forecasts for most agricultural products are bleak. In the past month, dairy prices have dropped 26-36%, corn futures have dropped by 14%, soybean futures are down 8% and cotton futures have plummeted 31%,” Feed & Grain reports. “Hog futures are down by 31%. A surge in demand for beef emptied grocery store meat aisles, but there is no lack of supply. Despite a rise in retail prices in some areas, the prices paid to cattle ranchers have fallen 25%.”

Spot and future prices are spiking for some staples like wheat and rice, the University of Illinois’ Farm Policy News reports. That’s likely to stabilize; the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects global wheat and rice reserves to be an all-time high. 

Some groceries are getting more expensive. Egg prices at the supermarket have tripled in the past month, The Wall Street Journal reports.

On the bright side, lower energy prices mean fertilizer prices are down, David Widmar reports for Successful Farming.

Farmers are panic-buying animal feed, fearing that feed mills will close or trucks might be delayed, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

A Tyson Foods meatpacking plant in southeastern Iowa shut down Monday after more than two dozen workers got sick with COVID-19, Chuck Abbott reports for the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Others could shutter, affecting rural jobs.

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