Minnesota farmers struggle to cope with crashing agricultural prices

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For many farmers during this coronavirus pandemic, the situation is dire.

The Minnesota Farmers Union said it started when restaurants and schools closed.

"The local farmers who were selling direct to a restaurant or schools, it hit them immediately, they lost their markets overnight. Now, it’s really hitting all agriculture, all types of farms are being affected," said Gary Wertish, President of the Minnesota Farmers Union.

Mike Peterson owns a family farm in Northfield.

"You can’t complain about the lifestyle, really," said Peterson.

But he said for the last few years, and now again in 2020, farmers haven’t had it easy.

"The markets hate fear, also they hate oversupply, and we’ve got all that going on right now," Peterson said.

"Everything has been turned upside down," Wertish said.

Wertish said whether it’s grains or livestock, there’s about a 25% drop in the price across the board.

"If you all of a sudden took 25% of their income away, it’s tough to survive," Wertish said.

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Dine-in restaurants are closed, which affects livestock demand, and gas prices are plummeting, which is lowering the price of corn. That means farmers are seeing a surplus, which is forcing some to potentially throw away perfectly good supply.

"We’re really vulnerable to the disruption in our supply," Wertish said.

So what do farmers do at a time like this? The Peterson farm is trying to diversify its operation to stand out.

"We’re going to try and sell direct to consumers, duck eggs as well as stone-ground wheat flour," Peterson said.

They’re also trying to cut costs where they can, but Peterson admitted they’re built on routine and can’t stop production completely.

"There’s a lot of resources and money that’s going to be thrown at this production of food and it’s concerning to try to realize where it’s going to go," Peterson said.

While the consumer will hardly notice a difference with shelves at grocery stores stocked, the same can’t be said for all farmers.

"It’s really going to have a detrimental effect on farmers if we don’t get this going back to normal," Wertish said.

But the Petersons plan to weather the storm to keep the family business alive.

"You almost have to have a crystal ball and it’s nearly impossible during these times," Peterson said.