Farmers and agribusinesses throughout the state have had to alter their products or services to meet new customer expectations due to the COVID-19 virus.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University’s College of Agriculture have surveyed farmers and agribusinesses on the virus’ impact on the industry. Of the 181 responses to the June survey, 41 percent reported that they have experienced an altered customer base, while 26 percent said they have altered products or services to meet customer expectations.
“From a long-term perspective, almost 30 percent of them indicated they have experienced long-term cash flow disruptions,” said Adam Rabinowitz, an Alabama Extension farm and agribusiness specialist.
According to the USDA, in Alabama in 2018, the reported farm gate commodity sales totaled $5.8 billion. Livestock, poultry and aquaculture made up over 77 percent of the total, combining for $4.5 billion. The greatest value was in broilers, at $3.5 billion, followed by cattle and calves, at $524 million. Crops totaled $1.25 billion, of which cotton was $310 million and feed crops were $221 million.
The survey asked participants to compare their total sales revenue since the coronavirus began impacting them with that same period in 2019. The results showed:
- Producers of field crops reported a 26 percent decline in sales revenue
- Forestry and timber reported a 15 percent decline
- Beef cattle producers saw a 25 percent decline
- Aquaculture producers (primarily food fish producers) reported a 27 percent decline
- Poultry producers reported an 8 percent decline
The survey also asked farmers about their participation in government-related relief programs.
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) was the most popular program recorded, with 43 percent of respondents saying they are participating. The CFAP was targeted to agricultural producers and provides financial assistance to producers of specific commodities that have sustained marketing losses. Commodities eligible for payments include cotton, corn, soybeans, cattle, dairy, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables. As of July 6, the USDA Farm Service Agency received 8,971 applications from Alabama producers. A total of $56.4 million in payments were approved.
Others reported that they have utilized the Paycheck Protection Program (42 percent) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (12 percent).
“The survey also asked those who were not participating in any programs what their reasons were for not participating,” Rabinowitz said. “People reported a combination of insufficient benefit levels, a need for additional information and business ineligibility as reasons for non-participation.”
For more on the survey, visit aces.edu.