Farm Bureau: Virus hit farmers already suffering difficult times

President Barb Iverson
Oregon Farm Bureau

Farming and ranching is a complex industry. As farmers we know there is so much more than dropping a seed in the ground and watching it grow. We have gotten so good at our profession that it is often taken for granted by society.

Our current COVID-19 crisis emphasizes how well our system works. Besides runs on toilet paper and flour, grocery shelves are restocked daily and there is always food to buy.

But the public needs to realize that most of what’s in the stores now comes from last year’s crop. Farmers and ranchers are into a new cycle, and to continue doing what we do best, we need support and access to essential tools so next year’s grocery shelves are full. Fertilizer, labor, seed, parts, fuel, and all the other inputs — and the transportation to get them to us — are needed to plant our crops and take care of our livestock. These are all essential industries to agriculture.
Farming is also very diverse. For some farmers, the impact of COVID-19 will be minimal; for others, it will be devastating.

In farming, we are used to tough years, and the last few years haven’t been particularly good for Oregon agriculture. Our hazelnut industry was hurt by increased trade tariffs, and growers were impacted by the closing of NORPAC, which was Oregon’s largest fruit and vegetable processor.

Concerns going forward could be cash flow to operate, labor availability to prune trees and work in the field, trade impacts with countries tightening their borders, and the list could grow. Some sectors are seeing significant drops in prices on an already thin margin. These price changes affecting farmers and ranchers are rarely seen in the grocery stores.

If we really value food security and food availability, we need to make sure farmers and ranchers receive a fair price for their products so they can remain viable and in business.

We should be proud of the job we have done in Oregon agriculture. And I know it’s not said often enough, but thank you. Thank you to all the farmers and ranchers who put food on our tables, provide countless other ag products, and take care of our land and water.

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