CoBank says the COVID-19 outbreak has brought the U.S. economy to a “screeching halt.” A quarterly report from the CoBank Knowledge Division has underscored the critically important nature of agriculture, as well as other industries essential to rural America.
The U.S grains sector is still stuck in a rut, with pressure on commodity prices, weakening basis for both corn and soybeans in some markets, and export volatility likely for the next few months. While crop farming fundamentals remain challenging, ag retailers enter this year’s growing season on a relatively stable footing. Retailers say they’re optimistic about a full agronomy season, given the pent-up demand for fertilizer and crop protection products, especially after a wet and complicated fall application period last year.
The U.S. chicken industry was optimistic heading into 2020 thanks to expected renewed exports to China. However, the shift to at-home eating because of COVID-19 has boosted chicken demand domestically. U.S. cattle has seen a swift and sharp decline in the last month. Chinese demand for U.S. hogs has set records, but it hasn’t led to strong prices or profit margins.
Milk prices have fallen off due to COVID-19. Cotton prices have sunk to new lows despite strong exports due to fears of slower economic growth. Specialty crop growers face an even tighter labor situation this spring.