Coronavirus impact: Ag industry may suffer up to $8 billion loss this year

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Some Fresno County lettuce crop had to be discarded back into the ground in April after the pandemic caused a sudden drop in demand from restaurants and schools.

A new report commissioned by the California Farm Bureau Federation shows ag losses have already topped $2 billion for farmers and ranchers.

The report says dairy alone has taken a billion-dollar hit.

"On the dairy side, it was the food service industry that pretty much shut off overnight. Much of the dairy industry does rely upon that as a big source of their markets," says Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen.

The grape industry was hit just as hard according to the report, with wine sales drying up after restaurants and bars shut down.

The losses weren't limited to restaurants. Some food producers were unable to ship items overseas.

"The one area we are directly involved in is exports. What we have seen is sort of an overall decline in exports, and a lot of that has to do with the availability of personnel at the various ports in some countries," says Fresno County Ag Commissioner Melissa Cregan.

Valley nut, fruit and vegetable crops are quickly maturing.

Growers anxiously await the harvest and hope demand will be strong.

"COVID has definitely been one of those that is extraordinarily different in how fast markets disappear and so there is a lot of concern out there. Is this something that's just going to last for 2020, or is this going to linger on in 2021?" says Jacobsen.

Some crops, though, like processing tomatoes from Fresno County, have actually enjoyed a spike in market demand.

So have shelf-stable foods like rice and canned fruit as people stocked up their pantries.
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