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The Potential Effects of COVID on the Future of Michigan’s Agriculture Economy

Photo: Michigan Farm Bureau press release

We’re quickly approaching the one-year mark that COVID-19 impacted our day-to-day lives. We know that everything in agriculture changed in different capacities, but now we need to examine how this will impact the future in terms of supply.

Dr. Trey Malone, extension economist with Michigan State University, talked with 10 ag economists about long-term economic trends and how they’re intensified or abated by COVID.

“A lot of these trends we’ve been talking about for decades,” he said. “What really matters is how those trends are affected by something that’s still ongoing.”

One of those trends is trade.

“The conversations that we had with these 10 ag economists leaned into trade conflicts,” he said. “Before COVID, we were talking about trade, and now we’re increasing our conversations about trade.”

The other item of note from these ag economists was about the future of USDA aid programs such as the Market Facilitation Program, citing an article from the University of Illinois’ Farm Doc.

“We don’t know what the change is going to be, but the article anticipates some type of structural or bigger-term, longer-term foreign policy change,” said Malone. “With the nomination of Vilsack, it’s not clear exactly what that policy change is going to be, but that’s something not be mindful of—particularly with the transitions in the House and Senate as it relates to ag committees.”

Malone said regulations, or the relaxing of regulations, provided to be a benefit for the liquid egg industry when closures started taking place.

“There was a regulation that prevented the breaking stock producers from easily shifting to wholesale shell eggs,” he said. “There’s a lot of supply chain rigidities, but the regulation was relaxed by the FDA. Our research suggests that the regulation helped facilitate a return to an obvious price expectation between those two egg groupings.”

For more on Malone’s research with Dr. K. Aleks Schaefer, click here.

Malone made his comments during the Michigan Agri-Business Association’s annual Winter Conference.