South Carolina farmer Chalmers Carr didn’t hold back when he told CNN just how unforgiving agriculture can be across America.
“A peach (that) is good today is not good tomorrow. That’s how quick things ripen,” he said.
“If you leave (blueberries and strawberries) on the bush or the vine one extra day, they’re virtually worthless.”
Carr owns Titan Farms in Ridge Spring, South Carolina. He grows peaches, bell peppers and broccoli on 6,200 acres.
He’s among the farmers who are planting spring and summer crops, or preparing to soon harvest fruit, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented uncertainty across the agriculture economy and food supply system.
From the White House to Main Street, officials across America are taking extreme steps to slow the spread, care for the sick, help those who have lost jobs and win the war against COVID-19.
Farmers are on the front lines of efforts to keep America fed during these trying times of conflict.
They’ve been here before.
Back during World War II, the U.S. Crop Corps encouraged women and youth to work on farms to replace men who were sent to fight. “Work on a Farm this Summer” and “Help Harvest” were among the slogans on posters of the time.
Our farmers and ranchers are the most efficient and innovative in the world. And they are resilient. Rural America made it through the Dust Bowl, World War II, the 1980s price collapse, hurricanes, floods, droughts and trade wars.
A global pandemic won’t break the spirit of rural America. And it won’t stop a seed from sprouting.
Today, farmers are still preparing their fields and putting crops in the ground while ranchers are still caring for their herds. Some farmers, such as sugarbeet growers in Southern California, are already hard at work at harvest.
Nonetheless, this is an unprecedented situation facing rural America.
Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, told CNN that “You can’t throw too much of a worse scenario at producers than what they currently have.”
“Our system has responded well. And I think that’s going to continue. I know that’s a bold prediction because the world is being turned upside down here, and I recognize that. But I have great confidence in this system’s ability to respond and get food to the people where they need it.”
The government has rightly declared our farmers and ranchers essential workers and Congress is backing rural America with aid designed to help the economy during the pandemic. It’s a good step and one that will need to be revaluated as the true impact on farming and rural communities evolves.
“Our food supply chain remains safe, sound, and stable thanks to our farmers, truckers, grocery store workers, and others who are on the front lines,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
As Chalmers Carr said from his South Carolina farm, the peaches must be picked.
Now is the time to support our farmers and ranchers with strong farm policy.