Ag businesses have faced various challenges from the pandemic, from commodity surpluses to shipping woes.
The California Ag Leadership Foundation World Ag Expo breakfast highlighted a few examples. Ross Bernstein, an author and motivational speaker, returned to give the keynote address, virtually. Before his speech last year, he visited with a handful of ag leaders, and he checked in with them again to share how they fared in 2020.
Doug DeGroff of Diversified Dairy Solutions in Tulare reported about the same level of business as in past years.
“Cows still need to eat every single day,” said Bernstein, adding that changes in consumption had DeGroff fretting about the amount of milk dumped because it had no place to go.
For J.G. Boswell’s Jim Razor, the COVID impacts varied by commodity and time of year. Early in the pandemic, he told Bernstein, cotton prices tanked. Fortunately, the pivot from food service to home cooking meant demand for canned tomatoes remained. The operations Razor oversees didn’t have any employee coronavirus outbreaks and cotton prices rebounded. Bernstein said Razor cited as a lingering impact hiccups in the supply chain.
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“That’s their biggest issue: getting cargo ships back and forth into and out of China,” Bernstein said. Add wildfires and drought that tugged down yields, and Bernstein said Razor is “plugging along, and that's what it's all about.”
The leadership breakfast also included presentation of a $2,000 donation to AgVentures in Tulare and the hope that next year the event can be held in person.