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Our statement on COVID-19 and its impacts on young farmers
The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is committed to doing everything we can to support farmers and ranchers through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as its impacts unfold on our communities and food system. We know that many of you are deeply concerned about the health and wellbeing of your family and community, as well as feeling the heightened stress of managing your farms through this time of great uncertainty. Farming communities already shoulder a lot of risk, and the economic turmoil resulting from COVID-19 is an added stress at a time of year when many farms and ranches are seeding, lambing, making investments, and gearing up for the growing season. We imagine that you are already planning ahead to mitigate risks where you can–increasing safety measures on your farm, communicating with customers, and making new arrangements to weather this public health crisis. We want to do everything we can to support our country’s next generation of farmers and ranchers through these challenging times.
The coronavirus will continue to cause major disruptions to the food system. For many small and independent farms, closing down is not financially feasible and a slow season can spell disaster. We are seeing worrying signs that COVID-19 will have a material and lasting impact on this season. Many farmers markets across the country are making the informed, yet difficult decision to close or significantly delay opening. Necessary measures to contain the spread of disease have resulted in restaurant closures and the loss of important revenue from wholesale accounts. We can’t underestimate the challenge these closures pose to the majority of the farmers in our coalition who provide food directly to consumers in their communities.
We know the impacts of COVID-19 extend well beyond the market and are creating hardships in all of our communities. We know how many of our community members rely on access to the produce our farmers grow, and we fear the impacts on our food supply and the 10% of our population who are food insecure. We know how this public health crisis will compound the vulnerabilities endured by our nation’s farm workers and food service workers. Our farming communities struggle to afford and receive adequate health care; they now risk additional health care costs and the threat of medical facilities stressed beyond capacity, especially in underserved or rural communities. School closures are limiting free meal options for children that rely on them and creating difficult childcare situations for many families. Many in our coalition also rely on off-farm jobs for supplemental income, which have been impacted as many restaurants and other businesses temporarily shutter.
These are challenging times that call for community action and solidarity. Our organization is adhering strictly to the guidelines of our public health experts and cancelling all in-person events until April 15, and will extend this practice as long as is required. We will shift to using our digital platforms to service our community with tools and resources they need. Legislatures are planning condensed sessions and we will continue to advocate on behalf of our members and work to ensure the needs of farming communities are taken into account. We will move our planned events online and offer opportunities to engage in policy advocacy through online actions. We will continue to build community in a time of social distancing.
We are bolstered and humbled by the innovation and community spirit displayed in our coalition in the face of crisis. We’ve already seen farmers organize phone calls, donate produce to food pantries, share resources, and engage in the work of community building. At this very moment, farmers across the country are innovating to shift how they market and how they improve food access in their communities. We are so grateful for their hard work, their leadership, and solidarity. And we are grateful for all those–our nurses, our teachers, our government officials–who are shouldering risk and upholding the value of service through challenging times.
The National Young Farmers Coalition Staff
Last updated: March 27, 2020