We are in uncharted territory with the COVID-19 pandemic, says Chuck Conner, president, National Council Of Farmer Cooperatives. Conner joined Clinton Griffiths on AgriTalk radio on March 18 to give his perspective and update.
“As of right now, we don’t have examples of product not being delivered to the farm as needed,” he says. “But our fear is what may be coming.”
He says it is critical for farmers to be able to receive the feed, fuel, fertilizer and seed they need.
“Spring planting is approaching fast, and already this was going to be a challenging spring for the farm input business because during last fall there were limited opportunities to do the 2020 preparation. We knew it was going to be a rushed period and be well-choreographed,” Conner explains.
He says the coming weeks are critical in getting the crop planted and off to a strong start. Any disruptions in the supply chain for agriculture would extend the impact the pandemic has on the U.S. economy.
“We've got to treat agriculture, really, as a national security issue. If you've got livestock, you need the feed, and if you’re in dairy you need the assurance that your milk is going to get picked up,” he says. “We need food. We can't afford to do anything that impacts our ability to produce food; otherwise, the tail of this virus really starts extending for many years and we just can't have that.”
Conner also encourages everyone to mind the advisories that continue to evolve with the spread of the virus.
“As this virus continues to ramp up in the United States, we're looking each day at additional measures that are being put in place in order to protect and limit the spread of the disease. And that's important, and we need to do that. The caution I would have is that those protections can't be so broadly interpreted as to impact our ability to get farmers what they need—feed, seeds, fertilizer, chemical, fuel—to put this 2020 crop in the ground, because obviously we need the food supply, and we can't do anything to disrupt that food supply,” he says.