Politics

Coronavirus hits already struggling US farmers with drop in prices

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In this photo taken March 20, 2020, cattle rancher Joe Whitesell rides his horse in a field near Dufur, Oregon, as he helps a friend herd cattle.

Gillian Flaccus | AP

U.S. farmers have endured a slew of financial hardships over the past few years. 

The U.S.-China trade war sent scores of farmers out of business. Record flooding inundated farmland and destroyed harvests. And a blistering heat wave stunted crop growth in the Midwest. 

Now, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt another blow to a vulnerable farm economy, sending crop and livestock prices tumbling and raising concerns about sudden labor shortages.

“We were already under extreme financial pressure. With the virus sending the prices down — it’s getting to be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Iowa farmer Robb Ewoldt.

“We were hoping for something good this year, but this virus has stopped all our markets,” he said. 

Farmers are worried about labor shortages right before planting season starts in April. In an effort to curb the spread, the Trump administration recently restricted immigration from Mexico — a key source for cheap farm labor in the U.S. 

Farm trade groups are lobbying the administration to provide financial aid for farmers enduring price drops, as well as temporary work visas for seasonal farm workers from Mexico.

But panic is surging as more states shutter businesses and order people to stay mostly indoors. Consumer demand for items like beef, chicken and fish has dropped as restaurants close…



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