This time two years ago, I was starting this article off with a quote from “A Tale of Two Cities.” Unbeknownst to me, this quote would sum up 2020 even more than it did in 2018.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
I think it’s safe to say that 2020 was a year that none of us saw coming. So many lives changed so quickly, and so many challenges hit many head on, and the agriculture industry got a front-row seat to those challenges.
If you are involved in agriculture or care about the industry that feeds and clothes you, you know we face challenges every day, but the pandemic created a shockwave that we’ve been feeling for months, and it doesn’t look like it is going to end anytime soon.
We started off 2020 with positive news, the signing of two major international trade deals, which was a major step toward ending a two-year economic struggle between the United States and China.
Phase One of the trade agreement with China was a $200 billion deal overall. The agreement included up to $50 billion in purchases of agricultural products in each of the two years that followed. The second, the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA), was expected to increase agricultural exports from the U.S by $2 billion and result in an increase of $65 billion in gross domestic product. The agreement also benefited American dairy farmers by increasing their quota on U.S dairy products. Then the pandemic hit and like everything else in our lives, turned trade into disarray.
Perhaps the most important, and the most scary for most of us, was the impact the pandemic made on our food supply. For consumers, the fear of the pandemic led to panic buying. Grocery store shelves started emptying, and the virus continued to spread. For farmers and ranchers though, the work continued. Farm Bureau worked hard to ensure that agriculture and all of the support systems were considered essential. We were still farming. There was no shortage of food, just a major disruption in our food supply that led to crop futures tumbling, vegetable farmers having to leave their produce in the fields to rot, dairy farmers dumping milk when there was no room in the processing facilities. That disruption in our food supply caused a huge shift in processing, packaging and distribution. One positive to those disruptions is that consumers began turning to their local community for local foods. But that has also caused local farmers to scramble to find appointments with local processors who already have limited capacity.
I am no stranger to technology, but I never imagined that life would go completely virtual it seems– from video calls to work, to teaching our children virtually, visiting with family, and even having board meetings, training, ag conferences, and event equipment and livestock shows virtual. Broadband offers many limitations to our experiences virtually however, which means our work will continue on that front.
2020 was filled with uncertainty, loss, fear, frustration and a whole lot of stress. The one thing I hope it offered you though, was a little slow down. We all get so caught up in the demands of life that we find ourselves being stretched too thin. Although 2020 had its struggles, I’m thankful for the ability to raise my own food and to know those who raise the things I don’t. I’m thankful for technology advancements that allow team meetings, trainings, and a visit with my parents.
But most importantly, even on the days I felt like I was barely hanging on to my sanity, 2020 gave me time with my husband and my kids. Time that goes so incredibly fast slowed down just a little with no worries of sports, night meetings, and keeping up with social demands. I hope that even in the worst of times, you continue to see the little moments that tend to be the best times. I wish you all a healthy, prosperous and happy New Year.
Submitted by Mandy Orahood, an Ohio Farm Bureau organization director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties. She can be reached by email.
OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.