‘This will be a wallop’: Rural areas brace for hard economic hit

Labor force participation has recovered more slowly since the major recession in 2008/09 in rural areas, while the income gap between subway and non-subway areas has only widened in the last decade.

As painful as the last economic downturn was for rural areas, the current crisis poses its own problems that could ultimately be more devastating.

“This will be a whole new game,” said Ian LeMay, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association. This stands for fruit, blueberry and tree fruit growers and senders. “There are probably lessons we have learned from 2008, but I think the dynamic around what we see is very different and could possibly take longer.”

USDA in turn has Steps taken to help rural communities Prepare for the pandemic, such as easing food aid requirements and rural housing programs to support low-income people. The recent Senate law also gives the Department of Agriculture more power and $ 23 billion more help farmers and ranchers directly affected by the economic consequences.

With widespread school closings across the country, many classes have become virtual. However, this is not an option for many students who do not have reliable internet access at home. An inequality known as the digital homework gap.

Even more critical is that these shutdowns have made it more difficult to feed low-income students who rely on schools for subsidized meals. Districts face additional challenges when trying to feed rural school children, such as: B. Large distances between their homes and meal pick-up locations.

Shrinking access to financially stricken and distant hospitals could also be a major crisis as the pandemic spreads to rural communities where the USDA says residents are older on average and are more likely to have health problems.

Rural America “has a higher proportion of people who are susceptible to the virus” and are less able to work remotely. Economists at the liberal Think Tanks Center for American Progress wrote earlier this month.

“Because of the economy that rural Americans are facing, they are unable to protect themselves from COVID-19 and continue to make a living,” she warned.

Another “black swan” for farmers

Farmers and ranchers are already seeing that their bottom line is being undermined by the virus that hits the US just as planting begins in most of the country. The outbreak – and strict preventive measures to contain it – could even extend into the harvest season. The first wave is expected to start in April in agricultural regions such as the west coast.

“You can’t predict this kind of black swan event,” said John Newton, chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “It is a shock to the global economy. We will recover and recover – it just depends on how long it takes.”

Tom Slunecka, CEO of the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, said in February that it may take months to offset the initial trade losses as the virus spread to China earlier this year. This closed ports and factories, while supplies of food and agricultural goods increased.

China is an irreplaceable market for soybean producers in the upper Midwest who supply most of their beans there, said Slunecka. However, in the past two years, farmers have been subject to retaliatory tariffs that depressed Chinese demand and depressed soybean prices.

The corona virus threatens to keep that downward Price pressure in 2020. May Soybean futures, which were around $ 9.70 a bushel at the beginning of the year, plummeted more than 16 percent until mid March.

“We urgently need a relief in our raw material prices,” said Slunecka. “There are a large number of farms suffering at a level they haven’t seen in five years.”

The global economic slowdown could also tie up imports and restrict manufacturers’ access to critical supplies, from agricultural chemicals to their combine computer systems, many of which are manufactured abroad.

“We are exposed to the global system to ensure that our submissions are on time,” said Slunecka. “We’ll buy what we can early on, and the rest will just be wild.”

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