Alabama farmers concerned about the market due to COVID-19

Local News

CHILTON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Across the country, farmers have had to dump or destroy produce or milk because they’ve been unable to get perishable items into the food supply chain in a timely manner due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Alabama Farmers Federation said Alabama farmers are fortunate because spring is the season where farmers and still growing their crops, but if COVID-19 is still impacting the country by the summer, farmers could be in trouble.

Kenyon Easterling, a Chilton county farmer, said he grows peaches, plums, nectarines, and tomatoes. Right now, they’re all still growing and he has until about the end of May before he starts picking.

Easterling said his worry is the traffic not coming in. He relies on people traveling to and from the beach off I-65. That’s where he has a station that people can buy his produce.

“Our lifeline along with a couple of more stands are located right off I-65. There are a few of us located right off the interstate there, that is our lifeline. If people are traveling up north and going to gulf, it’s just day after day after day people coming but if the interstates aren’t flowing, the money isn’t flowing,” said Easterling.

The Alabama farmers federation said fortunately, thanks to increased demand for early fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, lettuce and broccoli, there is no widespread issue in Alabama with crops spoiling in the field.

Jimmy Parnell, president of Alabama Farmers Federations, said the challenge for Alabama farmers is getting food out in a timely manner whether that’s selling or donating.

“The problem is getting it from that mass-produced, large volume of product to a product that the consumer can actually handle,” Parnell said. “I could give you a tanker load of milk, drive up to your house with 5,000 to 8,000 gallons of milk, and you wouldn’t know what to do with it. But if you could get it in a gallon jug, you’d be proud to have it, so that’s the challenge there.”

Many crops in Alabama aren’t harvested and picked until the summer.

Easterling said they’re counting on June 1 to be normal operations again.

“We’re going to hope and pray that everything and everybody is safe. Everything is back to normal and say at least by the 1st of June. As far as on the farm, we’re a small operation so social distancing isn’t a huge impact on us right now so we’re going to stay the course, get everything ready just like there is no virus there. You can’t half do production. You’re either in or out so either turn your head on or not, so we’ll continue to do normal activities like what we would do every year,” he said.

Parnell said the Federation is working with state and local officials to help farmers impacted by the pandemic.


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