The New York Farm Bureau sent a survey to all members last month to assess the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on agriculture across the state.
The survey found that 65 percent of farmers and agribusiness owners had been negatively or very negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Forty-three percent have lost sales and more than a third have cash flow issues caused by the pandemic. Most farms – 84 percent – have a plan in place to train and assist employees to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. There was an opportunity to briefly describe any changes they to deal with the pandemic and answers ranged from transitioning to internet sales, cutting production to selling livestock.
Farm Bureau President David Fisher, who owns a dairy farm in Madrid, NY, says no farm has been untouched by the pandemic. “Unpredictability comes with farming. Look no further than the weather. This year we’re dealing with an exceptionally hot summer and drought conditions for much of the state. As state and federal governments have looked towards potential budget cuts and COVID assistance agriculture must be a part of the discussion. In the end COVID continues to affect our farms in big ways and small and we hope this survey helps government officials and consumers better understand what we’re all going through.”
Tony LaPierre co-owns Rusty Creek Farm in Chazy north of Plattsburgh. He says the dairy farm was planning to expand production but that’s been put on hold due to lost markets caused by the pandemic. “The vendors that we have made commitments to, plumbing, electricians, building materials, equipment dealers for the milking equipment, all that money that would be injected into the local economies is no longer going to be there. And we started last year making financial commitments so moving forward what’s concerning if you don’t have these markets or prices how are we going to navigate through these commitments to either hopefully expand in the next year or two or if not how are we, what are we going to do to change gears so that we can meet our financial obligations?”
Dressel Farms grows fruits, especially apples, in New Paltz. Co-owner Sarah Dressel Nichols says although their the wholesale market has dropped off, foot traffic in their farm store has picked up. “Our sales at our market have increased dramatically due to a combination of people from New York City who came up north. Other farm markets around have told the same thing that they’ve been extremely busy. At our retail stand we’ve had to change the layout so that people weren’t handling the produce that they weren’t buying and so that our employees who are wearing masks and gloves could handle the produce and give it to people safely and to insure social distancing. So we’ve been really grateful for that because it’s not easy to do anything else. And the wholesale market’s been really tough. So having a direct market do well is really positive.”
The New York Farm Bureau received over 500 responses to the statewide 2020 COVID-19 Farm and Agribusiness Survey.