It is hard to believe that this Virus could actually be a blessing in disguise. Humor me if you will and let us review some new perceptions that the US public may learned about agriculture.
To begin with, for the first time in most consumers shopping experience they were concerned about empty shelves in grocery stores. Most Americans never seriously ever questioned where the food was processed or, for that matter, where or how it was grown. In the beginning of this cycle they were mostly concerned about a shortage of toilet paper! Once they hoarded a safe supply, they began to notice that some food items were in short supply. Staples such as milk, meats and produce were suddenly in tighter supply. How could this be in America?
Everyone has heard the term “supply chain.” Again, I doubt many ever gave it much notice. The Corona virus however was having its way and impacting this chain. Packing facilities were not exempt from this pest impacting employees. When key numbers fell to this virus there simply was no alternative but to shut down and conform to new health guidelines. Replacement employees were not to be found. Was it really possible that the farmers were telling the truth? There was a limited supply of trained and willing employees to step in to fill this gap in the supply chain. Domestic citizens were receiving supplemental income and unemployment benefits. They were not willing to replace this workforce. Employers across this land were in short supply of workers. High unemployment yet no workers?
The national news reported that we were not short of milk or pork. What we were short of was key employees in the food chain. It only took a short time for people to realize how short this chain is between farm and their dinner plates. Farms were dumping milk and diverting animals to alternative landing spots.
For many this was the first time they had ever been out of a job. As weeks stretched into months
bank reserves dwindled. People were forced to look to new sources of food for their families. Not since the Carter administration had we seen long lines of cars awaiting not gas but food. Food banks reserves quickly evaporated. New programs had to be created to make diverse care packages for those in need.
New consumer preferences sprang up in our stores. People were now more concerned with value that was within their budget. Stores reduced the total number of items in favor of traditional staple food items. Durable food items such as apples, onions and potatoes suddenly became a wiser food purchase.
What I hope will come out of this pause in our normal food chain is an awareness that our food supply is not a certainty. It has needs and we all need to address these needs in a realistic manner. Our human resources in our food chains do have limitations. Those who select to work in this chain are not easily replaced. Just because we have high unemployment it does not necessarily mean people will flow into all jobs.
In conclusion, agriculture is a major player in small business. People too often lump farms in a separate group. In truth, they are perhaps the most important small business in our society. They create the food for our tables. When we hear news clips about the hard times that this virus has impacted on small business, think of the American Farms in this group. We all are important links in this nation supply chains.