The Impact of COVID-19 on Commercial Agriculture

When the first COVID-19 outbreak occurred in March, Americans panicked. Fears of what was coming next resulted in empty supermarket shelves across the nation.


Commercial agriculture contributes over $100 billion to the US economy. But it's not an easy industry to operate in. Farmers constantly battle climate change, trade wars, and workforce changes.

Now, add a global pandemic into the mix of problems a farmer faces every day.

COVID-19 has impacted nearly every industry in the world, and farmers are not excluded. So how is the country's current and future supplies looking? Let's explore.

Commercial Agriculture Labor and COVID-19

The first impact commercial agriculture experienced due to COVID-19 was a decline in its labor force. Foreign visa workers made up 20% of farm employees in 2019.

When COVID-19 flared in March, America reacted. The country suspended its normal immigration and nonimmigration visa processing services. American farmers faced concerns about losing their labor supply.

Then international travel decreased. The U.S. closed its borders to China, Iran, and over 20 European countries. Other areas have closed their airports completely, preventing citizens from traveling to the US for work.

Farmers all share one similar fear right now. A coronavirus outbreak could disrupt and shut down an entire farm.

To avoid this, farmers are changing normal procedures.

Workers are farming in small groups of 10 or less. There are more hand-washing stations than ever before. Breaks are staggered to avoid close contact.

The U.S. State Department announced that they're easing immigration requirements. This will help ensure farmers receive the help they require. Still, it's far from business as usual.

Farm Economy and COVID-19

Globally, there have been no significant food shortages. The virus has caused tighter measures, but farmers have reported minimal disruptions in the food supply.

In the next few months, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations expects some disruptions in the supply chain. Restricted movements by farmers and food processors may lead to lower produce production. Agricultural production may also be impacted by a shortage of fertilizers and veterinary care.

The closure of the hospitality industry has created the most devastation among farmers.

Restaurants, schools, and hotels purchase large quantities of crops from farmers. With these businesses being closed, unused food is being wasted. Farmers are estimated to be dumping 3.7 million gallons of milk every day and destroying 750,000 eggs each week.

Ways Farms Can Adapt to COVID-19

The CDC has not found COVID-19 to spread through food. This is a relief to farmers. But the deadly coronavirus can spread person-to-person, making food handling and processing difficult.

To adapt to COVID-19, farmers are:

  • Adjusting packaging and product mixes
  • Using alternative market outlets and distribution systems
  • Adding additional safety precautions
  • Increasing communication with distributors and customers

Now more than ever, farmers are considering alternatives to traditional methods.

Indoor vertical farms offer more control over crops and create a climate-proof environment. Read more about the benefits of vertical indoor farming in this article.

Explore the Outdoors

Commercial agriculture is responsible for keeping supermarket shelves stocked and our bellies full. During COVID-19, farmers have had to adjust normal procedures to prevent outbreaks and ensure healthy harvests. Here's hoping for a quick return to business as usual.

If you're looking to learn more about the outdoors, explore our website. We've got gardening tips, soil guides, and other knowledgeable articles.

About the Author Laura Bennett

Hello, I’m Laura Bennett. I love nature especially when it comes to flowers and different kinds of plants. I started a very small garden behind my house and I named it Humid Garden. So, I created this blog to provide aspiring and inspiring thoughts about gardening for gardeners and anyone who has the intention of keeping a garden.

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