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Resilience Shines Through Pandemic

The Michigan agricultural sector jumped into action to secure food supplies after COVID-19 disrupted the industry’s operations and reduced product prices across the supply chain.

“We were so excited that 2019 was finally over and we were looking ahead to 2020. Then, of course, the pandemic hit.” Said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “The prices farmers are receiving for their products are devastating.”

Livestock and dairy specialist Ernie Birchmeier, manager of the Michigan Farm Bureau Center for Commodity, Farm and Industry Relations, said pork, dairy and beef prices were down 50%, 40% and 35%, respectively. Corn and soybean farmers also experienced significant price declines, he said.

The agricultural industry readjusted every facet of the food supply chain to fit decreased demands from restaurants and increased demands from grocery stores, McDowell said.

The quick modifications, paired with Michigan’s in-state processing, helped keep Michigan’s food supply chain intact. MDARD Acting Deputy Director Jamie Zmitko-Somers said: “We are set up well in situations like COVID-19 because we aren’t reliant on processors in other states.”

McDowell said Michigan’s diverse food production has also been a saving grace.

“We have the most commodities after California. We have such a variety of food that is raised in Michigan, so it gives us a lot of resilience that other states don’t have,” he continued.

Birchmeier noted that farmers were working daily, adding that “the best thing that consumers can do is appreciate the fact that we have tremendous farm families working every day to supply the food we consume.”