Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Kentucky food banks have seen a 30% increase in use according to Ryan Quarles, the state’s agriculture commissioner.
“Most of those that are using the food bank have never visited one in their life,” Quarles said during a webinar with the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
He told those present for the call that although it has devastated much of what we have known as normal, this time has made Kentuckians appreciate their producing neighbors more than before.
“There is a greater appreciation for farmers during COVID(-19),” he said. “Before this, people could buy at their leisure from a fully stocked selection and then that was not the case anymore.”
He said he was not going to sugarcoat the situation, adding that there is a meat shortage because of the lack of processing plants that are open after recent closures because of sickness at plants.
“The meat shortage is real, but it is a lot better than it was a month ago,” he said.
Some processing plants, having been closed, are opening up again, but are at a reduced processing rate to help stop the spread of the virus.
Quarles reported 90% capacity operations for chicken processors, and 70% capacity on beef and pork.
That being said, he reported most plants are now backed up for processing with some booked until January of 2021.
“Farmers are losing money every day, but we are fortunate that the CARES (Act) funds will be addressed,” Quarles said. “But not only is the price going up, but farmers are losing the value of their herds. So it is a double whammy, it is a tough time.”
With nearly 38,000 beef cattle in Kentucky, Quarles is reporting a 30 to 40% decrease in their stocks value.
“This is what this compensation is designed to collect and make right,” he said.
Additionally, it is the commissioners intention to use $1 million worth of tobacco settlement funds to set aside to help with processing plants expansions.
He said with more personal protection equipment making its way into plants, things are looking up. But he hopes that the recent resurgence in agriculture is not one that fades away soon.
“I hope the local ag movement is not a fad, but something that sticks long term and gives farmers a bright spot,” he said.
In other coronavirus related news, there are no new cases of the coronavirus for Madison County as of Tuesday afternoon.
The total count remains at 55 and 46 are reported to have been recovered.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow or her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.