We are living in tumultuous times. But the world has seen pandemics, pestilence and plagues before. The Bible is filled with stories of deadly challenges to people. We will get through this 2020 coronavirus pandemic eventually. Meanwhile, crops will be planted; livestock will be fed. Producing food and feeding people is still job No. 1 for farmers.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig during March urged farmers to be proactive and take delivery of seed, fertilizer, fuel and other crop inputs. “Getting supplies in the shed and ready to go to the field is the smart thing to do, as we prepare for planting.” He also praised ag businesses who’ve been able to move services online and enact social distancing protocols to make sure the business of agriculture continues.
The need for reliable rural broadband internet services in Iowa and around the country is very clear, as school districts, colleges, government agencies and businesses have taken drastic steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Many have moved all in-person meetings and classes to online only. Employees are working from home. Colleges have closed their campuses, sent students home and moved to online instruction for the rest of the spring semester. Many of those students went home to rural areas with spotty access to the internet.
Need for broadband
Problems accessing broadband internet in rural areas were apparent long before COVID-19. Farm organizations have pushed hard for federal legislation to improve internet coverage. No longer a luxury, broadband has become a necessity to support the increasingly high-tech aspects of farming, communications and now education, as recent events have shown.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the state is allowing heavier loads to be hauled on Iowa roadways. This usually happens at harvest to help with moving the crop from the field to grain elevators, processors, etc. Because of increased demand for transportation and shipping spurred by the COVID-19 outbreak, weight restrictions are being lifted this spring. That’s good news for farmers hauling grain to market, and trucks hauling fertilizer and other inputs to farmers.
The temporary weight limit exemption and extension of hours for trucks operating on Iowa roads is for transporting “agricultural supplies and commodities, including but not limited to, livestock, raw milk and crop supplies.”
The ethanol industry is also taking a hit from COVID-19. Ethanol prices are at record lows, and many ethanol plants are on the verge of shutting down. People are driving less, which means less demand for motor fuel. And with Russia and Saudi Arabia boosting global oil production, that’s also hurting ethanol and biodiesel.
Iowa State University has a helpful web page on how to deal with COVID-19. Food and agriculture operations may be most interested in FDA resources and USDA resources on the virus. If you have additional questions or concerns about how COVID-19 might affect your farm, the website has resources to contact.
Iowa Concern hotline can help
Sometimes life gives you a lot to handle, but you don’t have to handle everything on your own. Iowa Concern is a free service from ISU Extension connecting Iowans with information to help them navigate through a variety of life circumstances. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, the services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at no charge. Iowa Concern provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics.
Call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or visit extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern to live chat with a stress counselor one on one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress or crisis, and disaster issues. All personal information given to Iowa Concern, whether on the hotline or through email or live chat, is kept confidential.