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COVID-19 was the ugly genie that got out of the box, not only in China, but globally.

David Kohl, Contributing Writer, Corn+Soybean Digest

April 14, 2020

3 Min Read
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I have been grounded from traveling and have been social distancing as much as possible as we work through this nasty bug. To satisfy my appetite for travel, I have been listening to Phlash Phelps on Sirius-XM 60’s at 6 radio early in the morning while feeding cows. In the evening, I enjoy traveling America in a corvette with the old television show Route 66. These shows have great actors and well written scripts with many movie and television stars making guest appearances.

My lectures are now broadcasted to a number of organizations from the confines of my bunker here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A number of questions and polling results are providing some interesting perspectives as we work our way through this sudden impact black swan event. Let's examine a few of the questions for dialogue over the next few articles.

How did we get here and where are we now?

This is a tough question out of the gate. COVID-19 is definitely a black swan event, which I have discussed in lectures and articles since the 1990s. I had a two-year sabbatical away from Virginia Tech which was very instrumental in my career. One of my projects was to examine the implications of a cyber-attack or bio-shock like COVID-19 and its impact on the agriculture industry and the U.S. and global economy. In my lectures over the years, discussion focused on not if a black swan event was going to occur, but when.

Related:USDA unveils COVID-19 resource guide

A few shots over the bow occurred with SARS, Ebola, African swine flu, and 9/11. COVID-19 was the ugly genie that got out of the box, not only in China, but globally.

Some of the COVID-19 devastation can be directed toward the neglect and lack of priorities of leaders in the United States and globally in developing proactive systems and resources to identify and track these types of outbreaks. Combine this neglect with the rapid urbanization of global populations, around 4 billion people traveling via airlines, and the urban population that spends much of their time indoors in “sterile” environments. This is a lethal combination for an accident waiting to happen.

When conducting the postmortem of this black swan disruption, global health experts will closely examine countries, such as Germany, that made substantial investments in detection and systems to handle a biological crisis like we are having today. This fall’s elections will have a focus on strategies for the prevention and systematic handling of bio-shocks. Over the next two months, the U.S. and global economy will be in stage one of this bio-shock. From June 15 through the end of September we will see the unveiling of programs for early detection and confinement of these outbreaks. September 2020 through June 2021 will be a period of biological and economic recovery. The looming fact is other bio-shocks, either mother nature or the bad guys, will dominate the media, policy, and economic decisions during that period. As a manager, expect extreme volatility in prices and costs, as well as wealth and asset values.

Related:Riding out COVID-19’s impact on ethanol

P.S. Food for Thought:

  • Do not be surprised if TSA begins screening both U.S. and foreign travelers for temperatures and health.

  • Health screening checks at sporting events and other large gatherings may become as common as security checks.

  • Issues concerning the tracking and prevention of outbreaks like COVID-19 with the use of artificial intelligence will become policy and privacy issues in the U.S. and abroad.

We will continue our discussion in future articles.

The opinions of Dr. David Kohl are not necessarily those of Farm Progress.

About the Author(s)

David Kohl

Contributing Writer, Corn+Soybean Digest

Dr. Dave Kohl is an academic Hall of Famer in the College of Agriculture at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. Dr. Kohl has keen insight into the agriculture industry gained through extensive travel, research, and involvement in ag businesses. He has traveled over 10 million miles; conducted more than 7,000 presentations; and published more than 2,500 articles in his career. Dr. Kohl’s wisdom and engagement with all levels of the industry provide a unique perspective into future trends.

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