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By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Real impact still to come for farmers

 

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Ken Kirschenmann with some of his grapes.

The current coronavirus pandemic had an immediate effect on businesses, schools, churches and just about every facet of our lives. But when it comes to the industry responsible for producing our food, the impact may not be fully realized for a while.

Local farmers say there has not yet been a huge impact on day-to-day operations, but the long-term effects will be felt in the next year.

Stan Wilson, a local farmer and historian, said it is business as usual on the farm, but it is unclear how large of an impact the virus will have on the market prices this coming year.

"I know dairy farmers have been hit pretty hard because of the closure of schools that usually buy the bulk of their milk. This ends up affecting the prices of alfalfa, which has gone down," Wilson said.

Michelle McManus of Wilson Ag said their workers are outdoors and have not had a problem in their daily operations. "We have been careful with our workers and their needs when it comes to safety. We practice social distancing and adhere to the guidelines."

Wilson Ag grows almonds, pistachios, grapes and alfalfa. One immediate impact McManus has seen is a decline in the price of alfalfa. "The price of alfalfa has gone down due to the virus, which is hurting the dairy market."

McManus said it would take time to realize what sort of long-term impact COVID-19 will have on the market prices.

Jay Kroeker, whose farm grows almonds and pistachios, said the harvest season for almonds is August and September for pistachios. "Right now, we are plugging along with not much change to our daily operations. It will be months before we see the extent of the effects it will have."

Farmer Randy Bergman has a different perspective on the virus situation.

"The main problem I have had is workers who would rather not work and make just as much, if not more than if they would come to work. This ridiculous incentive package that the Unemployment Department and the governor have put in place makes it easy for workers to just sit home and collect a big payday."

Bergman noted that this is on top of the daily challenge of finding reliable workers. "It is hard enough to find people willing to work in the fields. A lot of people today think they are above it."

Collectively, local farmers say they are working hard in the day-to-day operations, keeping the safety of workers at the forefront. As to the ramifications this pandemic will have on the industry long-term, it's a waiting game.

 

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