Pandemic-related losses to California farms, ranches and agricultural businesses will range between $5.9 billion and $8.6 billion this year, the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) said in a statement Tuesday.
“Analysts have looked specifically at 15 different agricultural sectors, using data on production, exports and prices through early May, plus interviews and surveys of people and businesses,” a CFBF spokesperson said. “The study showed the greatest dollar-loss impact to dairy, $1.4 billion to $2.3 billion; grapes, $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion; and flowers and nurseries, $660 million to $740 million.”
The CFBF, which represents family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 34,000 members statewide, said California’s agricultural sector has already suffered over $2 billion in losses this year from large shifts in retail demand and rising production costs.
“California farmers, ranchers and their employees have continued the essential work needed to keep American families fed, but that work has come with sacrifice,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “The impact is being felt in rural communities throughout the state that rely on agriculture for their residents’ livelihoods.”
Farms, ranches and agricultural businesses have also incurred higher operating costs for measures intended to increase employee health and safety, and in the more complex logistics required to move crops and commodities to market during the pandemic. Many California farmers will never be able to recoup these operational costs, the CFBF said.
While many California farmers say their live-crop businesses may not survive the pandemic, shelf items like rice, processed tomato products and canned fruit have seen an increase in demand, according to data from the study. But in aggregate, “the losses far outweigh the isolated benefits,” the CFBF said.