From social media threads to the daily news to overheard conversations in the grocery store, it is clear that many Americans are worried. For some, they are worried about what will happen if they contract coronavirus. For others, they worry about how to pay the bills after losing their job. And others worry about the availability of food quality and quantity at the grocery store.
If you fall into any of these categories, you’re not alone. I have wondered about these situations as have my friends and family. Farmers worry about these things too. They have families, employees and neighbors who they don’t want to see fall ill or face other challenges during this pandemic.
We are all used to going to the grocery store and seeing a wide selection of everything we could ever want – from meat and dairy to produce, paper plates and household cleaning products. Most of us have never seen the shelves empty. Our sense of security has been shaken and that is frightening.
Farmers are still working hard to get food to the grocery stores and ultimately our dinner table, but they are anxious.
Dairy farmers who have been asked to dispose of their milk are scared for how long it will last, whether they will continue to be paid and how this will impact the future of their farm.
Dairy farmers who haven’t received this request are scared it may be coming their way soon.
Farmers raising pigs, beef cattle and chickens are scared about how meat processing plant slowdowns and closures will impact their farm.
Livestock growth can’t be ‘turned off.’ The animals need to keep eating every day and they continue growing as a result. Most livestock farms have some kind of schedule where the animals are fed until they reach a certain age or weight and then are moved to another farm for continued care or, if they have reached market weight, are sent to a meat processing plant. This schedule is set many months in advance and can’t be stopped on a dime, which is creating stress and confusion as the COVID-19 challenges evolve daily.
Agriculture groups, like Farm Bureau, are working around the clock to identify ways to reduce disruptions on the farm, in processing, throughout the supply chain and at the grocery store.
Farmers continue to be committed to giving their animals top quality care even while faced with unexpected challenges.
So if you notice the grocery store selection being a little smaller than normal, just remember there is not a food shortage it is just taking a little longer to get through the supply chain.
According some of my connections in the dairy industry, for a processor to change from cheese production to milk bottling, it takes a year’s worth of planning and millions of dollars. These changes cannot happen overnight.
Many of us are scared, confused, angry or maybe a combination of all three. I urge you to remember that during these trying times it is more important than ever to stand united.
If you have questions about something a farmer is doing, go ahead and ask. Learn about the challenges they are navigating.
If you are overwhelmed by the extensive news coverage of COVID-19, choose a few reliable news sources to check on a limited basis.
If you are scared for your personal safety or that of your family, just remember you’re not alone – we’re all in this together!
Sarah Hetke serves as WFBF’s director of communications. She is passionate about helping farmers share their stories and connecting consumers with those to grow and raise the food they eat.
Micka Klauck says
I had read an article (dated April 15th) that the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and the Dept. of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection are partnering to recover and distribute milk statewide. I’m just wondering if there may be something in the works for beef farmers should it ever come to that? It’s so true…livestock growth can’t be simply turned off. And I would simply cry in a corner if any of our animals had to be slaughtered for no good reason, just as it’s heart wrenching to see milk being dumped. Thank you for your article!