If you had told me in late February that the majority of North Americans would be spending the spring in isolation, occasionally leaving the house to search the empty store shelves for toilet paper, I likely would have looked at you as if you had two heads.
Although the last few months’ events have seemed surreal, they have been a very difficult reality – much more so than the way I jokingly described them above. Unfortunately for many, a search for toilet paper has been a drop in the bucket of problems caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Beyond the obvious health-related concerns and loss of life, the impacts of this pandemic on agriculture have been felt both north and south of the border. The livestock industry has suffered the devastating effects of the closure of more than a dozen meat-processing facilities across North America due to the pandemic, leaving beef, pork and poultry producers looking for other slaughterhouse options, in addition to the steady decline in commodity pricing. I could go on, but so many questions about how to move forward are still unanswered, and no one knows what the next weeks or months could look like. To quote almost everyone who has mentioned this pandemic in conversation: these truly are unprecedented times.
As I write this in early May, the sun is starting to shine – literally and figuratively. The statistics are starting to improve, and with cautious optimism, we are looking forward.
Looking for silver linings, I’ve noticed two. First, there seems to be a renewed appreciation for producers and agriculture amongst the general public. The “panic buying” that saw many grocery store shelves empty of meat and eggs this spring brought to light just how valuable producers are. When I entered my local grocery store this spring after the pandemic was declared, I felt grateful that I could still order beef and pork from my butcher (who also happens to be my brother), and fresh eggs from a friend’s farm nearby, to feed my family. And, as we enter the summer months, as a producer or a custom manure applicator, you’re well set up to physically distance yourself from others so there won’t be too many added barriers to safe working as the season progresses.
We’re slowly approaching a new normal, but there is still lots of uncertainty and many unanswered questions. As an industry, the rest of the year may look different than we had hoped or planned for, but we know that tough times don’t last. The agriculture community is nothing if not resilient.
We wish you clear skies, ideal conditions and better days ahead.