The COVID-19 Virus And U.S. Agriculture's Supply Chain Concerns

Ag Economsits Lay Out The Importance Of Keeping The Supply Chain Function


By Mike McGinnis, Successful Farming - 3/20/2020


DES MOINES, Iowa --If they said it once, they said it 20 times during a one-hour webinar, “The U.S. food supply chain is the biggest concern, right now, in this fight against the COVID-19 virus.”


Agricultural economists at the University of Illinois, repeated that phrase Friday, during a webinar outlining the COVID-19 virus and its impacts on agriculture.


It just so happens to be the same message coming from USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.


“Food supply chain is sound, it’s stable & there’s plenty of food available. To the folks working in grocery stores & driving trucks full of products: Y’all are the heroes in the food supply chain,” Secretary Perdue tweeted on Friday.




Nick Paulson, University of Illinois director of graduate programs, says the run on groceries from the consumers is putting pressure on grocery supplies at the stores.


“Delivery of food is changing because consumers are coming into stores more often, making the effort to keep shelves stock difficult,” Paulson says. “Between staff having to sanitize shelves, special hours for the at-risk population, this end of the food chain is changing.”


Hoarding is happening, prompting experts to ask consumers to resist being a part of the problem.


“There is no need for more than a few weeks’ worth of groceries and other household items,” Paulson says. Be good humans.”


Meanwhile, Gary Schnitkey, farmdoc’s soybean industry chair in agricultural strategy, says that keeping the supply chain operational during the COVID-19 virus pandemic is key.


“There will be short-term changes in product demands and how it’s delivered,” Schnitkey says.


With restaurants and universities closing, that food will be shifting and get transported to other areas of the economy, Schnitkey says.


“The transportation companies are working overtime to handle this big shift,” Schnitkey says.


Over time, we’ll see a shift in ethanol demand and ethanol exports, Schnitkey says. “With lower fuel use, ethanol consumption and exports will change, over time, as well.”


Meat, dairy, egg and produce supply chains are the most important, the farmdoc experts say.


“Our biological units – hogs, cattle, and dairy have to be fed. We have to keep feed and veterinary supplies moving to those animals. The USDA is responding to the fact that as draconian measures are taken (to combat the spread of COVID-19), the importance of keeping transportation systems running is well known,” Schnitkey says.


Ag officials are watching processing plants and remain concerned when employees report infection of the COVID-19 virus.


“Given that we are trying to slow the spread of the virus, instead of stopping it, it seems likely that we will see packing plant employees contracting the virus,” Schnitkey says. He added, “We are likely to see some spiky, erratic prices at some supply points.”