The important question for everyone is just how long the stay-at-home order will last. One panelist noted that “if this goes on much longer, we may see 75-year lows in pricing and the long-term effects could be dire.”
Meat packing and processing plants have been hit hard, as these operations typically rely on human labor in close quarters. The JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley has now been closed. And, social distancing rules have had an impact, slowing down production.
Farming, that usually relies on H2B visas for migrant workers, is also expecting challenges as immigration and the influx of foreign workers has all but stopped. The panel noted that capital intensive agriculture industry is incurring risks and bracing to be hit hard, not only battling the virus, but looming price reductions. Right now, said one panelist, we are seeing a “30% decrease in milk prices, which is well below the cost of production, so milk farmers are nervous, expecting the crisis will hit them in June.” Traditionally cattle prices are an economic indicator. If beef prices fall, corn and all other products will likely follow because in the ag industry “it’s all connected.”
Experts agree that additional support from the Federal Government in the form of a Phase 4 of the CARE ACT would benefit the industry in the form of suspending foreclosures, credit loans, and possibly forgiving loans. But it is, as of now, unclear when and how Congress may act to bolster the vitally important agriculture sector.
Overview of Colorado’s Food & Agriculture Industry: