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How the pandemic has affected poultry and grain farmers in Caroline County

Posted: 3:11 PM, Jun 24, 2020
Updated: 2020-06-25 20:06:05-04

One of the areas that has been affected greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic is the farming industry.

David Schmidt and his family are poultry and grain farmers in Caroline County and Schmidt says in terms of the crop rotation, the way they're doing things hasn't changed much, but it has affected markets.

"It’s just kinda one more thing that’s piled on top of everything else in farming right now," he said.

According to Schmidt, grain farming has been a struggle for the last couple years due to over supply with the China Trade deal that’s never really come to fruition.

"You know we’ve really been fighting a lot of headwind in the grain commodity markets. And you throw on top of that, you know a national pandemic? It’s just one more thing that’s not working well for us," he explained.

Schmidt says they're fortunate that they're able to market their crops through a very long calendar period. He explained that they can forward contract long before they harvest and sell the crop out of the bin after harvest.

"But when the prices are just so low...there’s really no good opportunity it seems at least recently," Schmidt said.

Schmidt says that he cant say how much of the corn prices is directly related to the pandemic, but he knows it hasn't helped.

"The worry that we have, as a Delmarva grain farmer, is the effect it’s gonna have on our local poultry market, which we don’t...it’s really kinda yet to be seen, the extent of what that’s gonna be because all the corn that’s grown here on Delmarva itself stays here on Delmarva and is used for chicken feed," he explained. "So the poultry integrators aren’t placing the number of chickens, if they have longer layouts, that is less feed that's being consumed by all the chickens here on Delmarva and that's gonna soften the market, the demand for the corn and soybeans that we produce."

Schmidt's father does more of the poultry on the farm, and Schmidt explains that his last flock of chickens just went out about a week and a half ago and he had to keep his chickens about a week and a half longer than usual.

"They would become unmarketable because they would grow too large," he said. "So because the processing plants couldn’t take the chickens that they normally could, so you’ve got all these 8 week old ready to go to market chickens in the chicken house here on Delmarva and the processing plants say no we can’t take those. The chicken’s in the house, you know? Thankfully we didn’t have to depopulate any chickens."

Schmidt says that's something that no one wants to do because its a waste of resources.

"There’s people out there that need that food, that want it, they want to buy it, they might not be able to buy it, maybe it could be given to them but just simply because it cannot be processed because of COVID-19 the way that it used to be. You know, that had to happen on some farms."

This has happened in places like Salisbury where farms had to close down due to workers contracting the virus.

"You’ve got people within a relatively close proximity, there's only so much they can do to separate each other."

He says that the farm was eligible for assistance with the market facilitation program and that was supposed to offset the market impacts of the trade war with China.

"We were eligible for that and we are not eligible for the most recent package geared toward farmers. It had a lot to do with market timing and when you sold your crops, how much you held over from the year before. We did not fit that criteria so we were not eligible for that."