Farmers prepare for planting amid uncertainty of coronavirus pandemic

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South Dakota’s livestock producers aren’t the only piece of the state’s agriculture industry the pandemic is impacting. 

Corn and soybean growers across the state are getting ready for planting season in the midst of a very uncertain future. 

“There’s just real uncertainty, we don’t know how long this is going to last, nor does anyone. We are driving less. The demand in liquid fuel has plummeted,” South Dakota Corn Growers Executive Director Lisa Richardson said. 

The state’s corn industry is experiencing a major drop in demand from ethanol producers. 

“Typically we produce about 800 million bushels of corn, 450 million is used for ethanol production,” Richardson said. “About half our ethanol industry is shut down.”

Livestock, the second largest market for corn and one of the largest markets for soybeans, is also taking a hit. 

“We’re learning about the closing of Smithfield and that’s really impacting pork producers. And they are our main demand and if we lose that demand then it is going to back off the amount we’re going to be needing to provide, so that is a concern that we’re looking at,” South Dakota Soybean Council Executive Director Jerry Schmitz said.

But both Schmitz and Richardson say exports are looking promising.

“Demand is going up worldwide, we’re having a little difficulty in transportation just because of COVID-19, but for the most part demand is there and the product is moving,” Schmitz said.

“Around the world food security has become a huge issue. Vietnam pulled back its rice, and with Russia we’re hearing rumors it may not sell its wheat,” Richardson said.

The other good news for farmers this Spring is that the weather is cooperating much better this planting season compared to last year’s floods.

“Their plans and their seed orders are set, if they can get in, they will plant,” Richardson said.

Despite the uncertainty in the markets, these industry leaders say farmers should continue what they’ve always done in their fields.

“Everybody is a little bit concerned but so far its full steam ahead,” Schmitz said. “We want people to do rotation and not make decisions on the spur of the moment, what might be good today, a month from now may not be as good, so look at the market signals but do what’s best on your farm.”

The down market prices right now could have an immediate impact on many farmers who are still trying to sell last year’s harvest that’s stored away. They hope the president’s financial agricultural relief plan will help farmers recover some of their losses, pay the bills and get this year’s crop planted. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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