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Farmers and Ranchers are Far From Immune to the Financial Strain Brought on by COVID-19

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The financial instability felt by so many North Dakotans is making its way into an already unstable agriculture market.

Survey data recently collected on Agweb.com shows 90 percent of farmers and ranchers in the U.S. say they expect COVID-19 to impact their business.

The Langs live, work and breathe most of their days on a fifth-generation family farm and ranch in Sterling.

“We’re in the middle of harvesting, trying to finish harvesting and starting to start spring planting, so it’s a little bit difficult and challenging this year,” shared Heather Lang, a mother of three.

For Heather, her husband and three kids, it’s mostly business as usual: raising pigs and sheep to name a couple. But cattle is where it all began for the Langs. It’s their bread and butter.

And Heather says, it’s been a lot of bad years.

“Everybody wants their meat, and yet the farmers aren’t getting paid anything for it, and we’re having a hard time selling it,” she added.

And now, we’re seeing the ag community across the country having to rid of excess crops.

“The restaurants have shut down, schools have shut down and that’s not something that we can just go ahead and donate to the food banks. It’s just not that simple,” Heather explained.

As far as being able to work and keep up with the CDC guidelines, Heather says that’s the easy part.

“So social distancing…farmers and ranchers have been doing that pretty much our whole lives. We spend more time with the animals than we do people,” she laughed.

“The guy at my local parts store wears gloves when he didn’t. They stand back from the counter… when maybe they would’ve stood around and chewed the fat with you a little more. And so those kinds of things are a smidge adjusted, but it’s as normal as things can be,” shared Pete Hanebutt, the Director of Public Policy for the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

Hanebutt says farmers will likely have to alter their business models this year. But in the long run, he thinks North Dakota agriculture will bounce back.

Heather says the nearly $25 billion in agriculture assistance set aside by the CARES Act is a great thing. While it’s unclear exactly where the money will go yet, she says, she and her husband don’t plan to rely on it.

“It’s nothing that us as farmers and ranchers can’t handle, because we deal with challenges and struggles every single day,” she concluded.

Hanebutt says Congress is working on defining the rules for the agriculture assistance funds. He says we’ll know more in a week or two.

On a positive note, the Langs have the kids home from school right now, meaning, three extra pairs of hands on the farm.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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