(The Center Square) – Iowa’s agriculture economy could suffer losses topping $6 billion stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The predictions from an Iowa State study focuses on the impact of the virus across the entire state, despite there being fewer reported cases of outbreaks in much of rural America. Researchers identified the biofuels industry as one of the hardest-hit sectors of all.”Our industry came into COVID-19 already under significant economic duress,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor told CBS. “2019 was one of the toughest economic years in recent history for ethanol producers.”Since the start of the pandemic, ethanol production has fallen by 43 percent and former governor and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned it could get even worse. With more than a quarter of the domestic workforce tied to the food and agriculture industry, Vilsack is asking the government to take action before irreparable damage is done to one of the country’s most vital industries. “There are tools, there are resources and now is the time to see them creatively used,” he said. “One example is food pantries, now, in high demand with tens of millions of Americans pushed into unemployment.”While Vilsack said many food banks are not equipped to store a large number of perishables, he suggests steps like sending a refrigerated trailer to pantries so they can store milk and other goods to meet demand can be taken, especially when the situation has gotten to the point where some farmers are now reduced to dumping their milk because they have no other place for it.”It’s not like you can talk to the cow and tell them to stop producing,” he said.