I’ve been resisting writing another depressing post. We all need the cheering up, not the pulling down. But somethings have to be said. I’m not including links. More than half of my sources are from conversations with farmers, or from their FB posts, or the like. There is a remarkable, and scary, lack of mainstream media notice of this. Edit-after posting this I found a few links. They’ve been added at the bottom.
When this first started, when I first posted my first response to the shutdown and buyout out of the stock at the stores, I was outright hopeful that agriculture would come out strong. And I firmly believe that if the shutdown and fear mongering had really only lasted that two weeks that everyone insisted was needed that I’d have been right.
The problem is that we’re well into month 2, and about to head for month 3, of this mess.
Yes, RIGHT NOW, there’s probably enough perishable foods in the various warehouses to fill the nations grocery stores no problem. What we have RIGHT NOW is a distribution problem. We either can’t get the foods to the stores quickly enough, or the foods are in a form meant for restaurants rather than retail and so it can’t be immedietly sold without costly repackaging.
The problem is that the distribution problem has backlogged into agriculture already.
A HUGE portion of this country’s agriculture is based on supplying restaurants in various forms. This sort of food takes a completely different form than what the average person buys at the grocery store. And while I’m perfectly happy breaking down a 50lb case of beef for freezer storage, a HUGE portion of this country not only has no clue how to do that, they don’t have the freezer space to even contemplate it. And thats without getting into things like, onion rings, which people eat a LOT of when out at restaurants, and not nearly as much at home. A huge number of farms out there are dedicated to supplying the restaurant/food service supply chain. The meat and produce goes directly into processing plants meant to process it for food service. And those processing plants aren’t immediately able to switch over to retail packaging. It would cost a fortune to do. And that assumes that they have the people to make the switch and run the lines. Which they don’t.
Even the side of agriculture that is intended for retail sale is backlogged to the point of shutdown. Processors are being scheduled months out. In a time when the average American is trying to stuff their tiny little fridge freezer full of enough food to carry their family of 4 through weeks of quarantine the price per pound, that is paid to the farmers, of livestock and produce is crashing like a rock. Prices have been way low on that end of things for years now, but they just crashed, hard. Add in that the processors, big and small, are running short handed, or even shut down, because of fears of this virus. And even if the processors weren’t running short handed, this side of the agriculture equation just isn’t BIG enough to make up for the food that people are now buying at the grocery stores instead of at restaurants.
Look, remember how when this all started there were horrifying images of dairy farmers dumping milk? Well, those same dairy farmers are now looking at having to sell off their dairy herd, and not to another dairy farm, in order to just put food on their own tables. And once those 100’s and 1000’s of dairy cows have been slaughtered they can’t come back and start producing milk again. It’ll be years to rebuild those herds.
A friend of mine raises sheep for meat and for lamb sales. She normally has NO problem selling off her spring crop of lambs. But not this year. This year NO one is buying. Well, thats not entirely true. She’s had random city people pulling into her driveway trying to buy her livestock. People who have no clue what to do with a lamb, much less a cow. But even if she was willing to sell to those people they aren’t willing to pay a decent price for the animal either. She’s started making a point of counting her chickens every night as she closes them up in their coops. And she’s had medications for the animals disappear out of her barn.
Add in that a huge portion of the US consumers are now out of work. They no longer have the money to buy whatever catches their attention. And the longer this shutdown goes on the larger the percentage of them will that won’t have a job to go back to.
If this trend doesn’t get switched around by god fast there are going to be some by god major food shortages. We might not feel them till fall, but I have a feeling it won’t take that long.
Do we really want to find out what malnutrition does to the normal flu death rates? I’d really rather not. Really really not. Or malnutrition on top of the fall surge of Covid19, cause yes, there’ll be a fall surge. I really don’t want to go there.
Really really really don’t want to go there.
Edited to add links: