Everyone would agree that the last few months have been stressful with the added COVID-19 challenges. The weekly trip to the grocery store has turned into empty shelves and one way aisles. The empty shelves can be frightening to not have food to feed your family, but it would be even scarier to not have ranchers and farmers working hard every day to continue feeding America. Ranchers and farmers wake up with the roosters every morning and put their boots on to make sure those shelves stay stocked. Ranchers and farmers are great at adapting to additional challenges each year, but no one saw the challenges of COVID- 19 coming.
Some of the challenges ranchers and farmers are suffering from are losses from restaurants and school closure, adding additional costs, and lower market prices. The livestock industry had dairies dump millions of gallons of milk and meat processing plants suspended operations. Without the meat processing plants open there was nowhere to take the livestock to be harvested. The U.S. pork industry was hit the hardest with these changes. Restaurants and schools buy in bulk and rerouting and repacking individual produce and meat is an involved process leading to the empty grocery store shelves. Some of the changes you may see at the grocery store are the cuts of meat may be different than you are used to buying because these are the cuts of meat that would be sold to restaurants.
Many produce buyers cancelled contracts with farmers, and crops were tilled back into the ground. Some farmers didn’t replant crops when they weren’t sure if they could sell them; this will lead to future shortages in the grocery store of items that would normally be readily available.
Many farm and packing plant workers are more susceptible to COVID-19 because of their close working and living conditions. Harvesting, processing and packing operations suffer labor shortages when large numbers of workers are infected.
If you are interested in supporting local farmers and ranchers, you can buy directly from some of them. The Florida Cattlemen’s Association has created a list of ranchers who are selling their beef directly to consumers: www.floridacattlemen.org/resouces /buy-florida-beef/ . Here is a map of local farms that offer products and services directly to the public: https://tinyurl.com/OsceolaFarmMap
Please do not hesitate to contact your local Extension office and speak with a Livestock or Agricultural Extension Agent if you have any questions: 321-697-3000