Alabama Agriculture Feeling Effects of COVID-19

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Courtesy of Justin Miller
Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Practically every industry has been affected by COVID-19 in some fashion. Professionals from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University’s College of Agriculture recently performed a survey to evaluate the impact of the disease on the Alabama agricultural industry.

Adam Rabinowitz, an Alabama Extension farm and agribusiness specialist and Auburn University assistant professor of agricultural economics and rural sociology, said the online survey recorded a total of 181 responses, from all agricultural related sectors in Alabama.

“A total of 72 percent of the respondents classified their business as production agriculture,” he said. “The second largest category were those classified as other. Many of these specified themselves as involved in the landscaping and turf industry, as well as farmers markets.”

Survey Showed Mixed Results

The results from the survey show mixed effects from Alabama producers. Although many of the producers reported no change for their business operations, 41 percent reported that they have experienced an altered customer base. Additionally, 26 percent of those surveyed said they had to alter products or services.

“Some of the businesses reported that they have had even more substantial impacts,” Rabinowitz said. “From a long-term perspective, almost 30 percent of them indicated they have experienced long-term cash flow disruptions.”

The survey asked participants to compare their total sales revenue since the coronavirus began impacting them with that same period in 2019. The results were as followed:

• producers of field crops reported a 26 percent decline in sales revenue

• forestry and timber (including pine straw) 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

“People must remember that while these broad categories show significant decreases in revenue for many sectors, the impact is not uniform across all commodities,” Rabinowitz said.

Participation in Government Assistance

The survey also assessed the participation of Alabama producers in government-related relief programs. The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) was the most popular program recorded with 43 percent saying they are participating. The USDA Farm Service Agency received a total of 8,971 applications from Alabama producers as of July 6. A total of $56.4 million in payments were approved.

Forty-two percent of participants reported they are utilizing the Paycheck Protection Program. While 12 parent said they are using the Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

“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.”

Participants who reported that their businesses are not eligible for CFAP also reported a 39 percent decline in sales revenue.

A full report of the findings from this survey is available in Assessment of COVID-19 Impacts on Alabama Agriculture. For more information on the impacts of COVID-19 on the agricultural industry, visit www.aces.edu.

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