It’s ‘kinks’ in the supply chain which make it difficult to get their products to consumers.
Frederick, Md (KM). The coronavirus pandemic has caught a lot of farmers off guard. Colby Ferguson, Director of Government Relations at the Maryland Farm Bureau, says production is not the problem, but getting products through the supply chain.
He says many dairy farmers supply milk to area schools. But the schools are closed due to the COVID-19 emergency in Maryland, and these farmers can’t easily change from supplying students with milk to supplying grocery stories with their products. “You can’t just flip the switch and go from the little cardboard cartons of milk going to the students and turn into one-gallon plastic jugs overnight,” he syas.
Ferguson was guest recently on WFMD’s “Morning News Express.”
He said there are problems with corn and other grain products, which are usually grown locally to be fed to cattle and chickens. But there’s not much demand from consumers for chicken and steak. “Between that and the ethanol plants shutting down because of the p rice of gas is so cheap, right now that just puts a backlog on the need for corn,” Ferguson says.
Another problem has to do with the processing plants when employees or their families are infected with the coronavirus, and can;t come to work. “Not necessarily are they sick. But maybe a family member was exposed, and therefore their whole family is quarantined for two weeks. Well, that takes those people off the line. Next thing you know, you have half shifts going on because you’re trying to make sure you have enough employees to keep the lines running and keep the things processing,” he says.
In some cases, the processing plant has to close because a large number of employees and/or their families are infected with the coronavirus.
But despite all this, Ferguson says the United States is not in danger of running out of food. “We as farmers are so efficient and so good at growing what we do that we grow more than what we need in the country. So that’s why there’s such a huge push and pressure to have exports out of the country,” he says.
But when the ports are closed, Ferguson says the farmers’ products have no place to go, and farmers prices have plummeted. “Now you go to the grocery store, and you see steak at $15 a pound, that’s not getting back to the farmer. Its supply and demand,” says Ferguson.
He says we need to get employees back into the processing plants. “We grow a lot for everybody,” says Ferguson. “When that supply chain gets a kink in it, it backs everything up.”
By Kevin McManus