The traditional farm-to-table path for food has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many people staying home and out of work, food supply chains can’t operate as before. Demand for certain goods has also changed.
Now, a new report from Texas A&M University takes a broad look at the effects of COVID-19 on Texas agriculture. Joe Outlaw is the co-director of A&M’s Agriculture and Food Policy Center. He told Texas Standard host David Brown that the state’s agriculture economy will lose between $6 billion and $8 billion this year because of the pandemic. That factors in losses from unsold crops and animals due to drops in consumer demand or difficulties with distribution.
“My $6 to $8 billion is kind of on the low side,” Outlaw said. “It could really be much higher.”
Outlaw said the meat production sector is facing particular challenges because meatpacking plants have been forced to close, meaning animals that would have been slaughtered and processed can’t be moved out of feedlots.
“It sends bad price signals down, all the way down to the cow/calf producer,” he said.
Outlaw said the usual “just-in-time” supply chain relied upon by agriculture producers and processors has always been fragile. COVID-19 has exposed that weakness. He cited the example of dairy production: school and restaurant closures have meant there’s nowhere for a lot of milk to go after it’s processed.
Outlaw said rice and wheat are two crops that have done better than others in the midst of the pandemic. Prices have remained stable or even risen slightly in recent months.
“Rice and wheat are food staples around the world,” Outlaw said. “If a person had rice to sell, he could sell it for more now than they could’ve for the past 10 years.”
Web story by Shelly Brisbin.
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