The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a report that demonstrates the tough times that many farmers are facing. They point to the issues brought up by the current pandemic, as well as problems the industry has been facing for years.
The acute crisis of COVID-19 led to shortages in certain commodities like meat, while other farmers were stuck with excess product like in the case of milk suppliers in certain areas. The temporary panic of empty shelves however isn’t the real story affecting farmers during these tough times.
The virus has exacerbated the problems that agriculture has been battling for years. Production costs continue to rise or remain steady while commodity prices keep falling. Popular crops like corn have fallen 44% between 2014 and 2019. At that same time, the cost to produce corn has risen from $675 to $688 per planted acre. The same trend has been happening for soybeans, wheat, rice, cattle, hogs, and milk.
Worrying trends were apparent in the agriculture sector even before the onset of the virus with investments in equipment down, the debt of farmers up, and more people were taking out loans to borrow against the value of their land.
Right now, recovery is looking promising as markets try to bounce back from the hardships of this year. Deals are being struck for record levels of grains like soybeans and corn. Meat production is expected to be at an all-time high. But as the full effects of the pandemic are just hitting farmers, the full extent of the struggle is unclear.
The plight of hemp farmers is following these trends. The last few harvests have seen dramatic drops in the prices that farmers are pulling in per acre while production prices remain steady. As more technology is released to help farmers plant and process larger acreages, the outlook for this new crop may change. For now, farmers of all types will be facing difficult times.