Ask a farmer about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his/her daily schedule, and he/she may say- not much very much. It is business as usual when it comes to tending to crops and livestock. Already socially-isolated and situated in an outdoor setting, cows need to be fed and milked and crops need to be planted and harvested. Mother Nature’s cycles continue on, and farmers work to make the best of it. 

As for COVID-related disruptions in the supply chain and marketing/distribution channels, that is another story. Everyone has learned to plan ahead, expect longer wait times, and improvise if goods and services are not available at a particular moment in time. Patience is definitely a virtue.

Contingency planning is important for farm businesses of all shapes and sizes. A year ago weather was our enemy. This year weather has been our friend, but the stability of human biosecurity has been elusive. Who could have imagined it? Now that we know what we know, what will 2021 have in store? 

FSA’s CFAP and CFAP2 provide price support to farmers who produce commodities affected by COVID-19 and related price volatility and market disruptions. These programs will not be the cure-all for every farmer’s economic woes, but they may be the glue that keeps many ordinarily financially-stable farmers from draining liquidity or bleeding red ink due to forces out of their control. They also help ensure that grocery stores are stocked with American-grown products offered at a fair price to consumers.  

Ask farmers and they will tell you that they’d rather earn fair prices for their products the old-fashioned way, rather than depend upon government hand-outs to make a go of it. However, there is no other industry more dependent upon the resources situated closest to Mother Nature than agriculture. And these resources do not come with guarantees, warranties, refunds, nor disclaimers. Well, maybe there is a disclaimer? ‘Farming is a bigger gamble than playing in Vegas’- at least that’s what some of them say.

As we look ahead to 2021, no doubt, we will spend additional time with our clients, discussing and tracking financial performance, business strategies, and enterprise differentiators that may help them capture gains and efficiencies and ensure business continuity. COVID-19 is not the first pandemic in modern times nor is it likely to be the last. Like crop and livestock biosecurity, farms and businesses will now need to keep human biosecurity on the dashboard for continuous monitoring as well. Plan up, gear up, and ride on!

Amber Keller is senior vice president, director of ag banking at Town Bank in Clinton. She also serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section.

Photo submitted by Keller, "Riding On, Dodgeville, WI"