Damage to Iowa Ag Industry from Virus Will Be Huge, Economists Say

By | April 16, 2020

A group of agriculture economists said on April 15 the coronavirus pandemic will cause billions of dollars in damage to Iowa’s crop and livestock industries.

In a report released from Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, the economists said the ethanol industry will see $2.5 billion in losses due to lower fuel demand and the state’s hog industry $2.1 billion in losses due to a drop in restaurant business and closing packing plants.

For farmers, damage to corn is estimated at $788 million, soybeans at $213 million and cattle $34 million.

Economists Dermot Hayes, Chad Hart, Keri Jacobs, Lee Schulz and John Crespi note the numbers will change as the pandemic evolves.

“Iowa is the United States’ second-largest agricultural state, and the impact on Iowa’s agricultural producers, especially of soybean, corn, ethanol, pork and beef is expected to be massive,” they said.

They said social distancing policies appear to be reducing the rate of infection “but they severely curtail economic output and restrict demand.”

Agriculture trade groups and the state’s congressional representatives are asking for increased aid to ease the economic damage.

On April 14, pork industry leaders asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy $1 billion worth of bacon, ribs and other products. The items had been intended for restaurants but would be sent to food banks.

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