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Farmers feel coronavirus pinch

Effects not as severe Up North

ALPENA — Though the effects weren’t as severe in northern Michigan as elsewhere in the country, local farmers still felt some of the damage the coronavirus pandemic caused.

Brook Alloway, a farmer at B&B Farms, said B&B is one of the farms that sells directly to consumers.

The biggest problem they ran into this year was finding a butcher to cut the meat, Alloway said. The problem was butchers were so busy with new and old customers. Some butchers in the area had to close down because of the pandemic.

That also caused some strains in customer relations, Alloway said.

“Larger packing plants have closed down,” Alloway said. “So the medium-sized butchers had to take more customers from those larger plants. So the medium sized butchers had to be more busy.”

Alloway said B&B didn’t have any problems with expenses or people turning away their orders. Customers found them because local grocery stores and providers became too expensive.

“People have found us, too, because local grocery stores are so expensive,” Alloway said.

Janet Tolan, a dairy farmer, said the only thing she saw during the pandemic was the price.

“It was down to $11 and some cents per milk, which was a low we have not seen for quite some time,” Tolan said.

Usually, milk prices are in the $18 range.

Tolan said her dairy farm is in a co-op, which means she doesn’t sell directly to customers and saw no change in buying and selling of the milk. She also didn’t see any milk-dumping in the area, as other dairy farms had to do because there were too-few customers to buy the milk during coronavirus-related shutdowns in the spring.

“There was some places that did have to dump milk throughout Michigan, but most of us in northern Michigan didn’t have that problem,” Tolan said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture set up a program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to help farmers with some financial costs. There has already been one program and CFAP2 is now taking applications through Dec. 11, according to the USDA website.

Joel Johnson, the USDA state executive director, said the biggest changes officials have heard from farmers is a disruption of the supply chain.

“The change of demand, and that’s because many people have not eaten out during the pandemic or schools for a long time or other catered sort of events,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he didn’t see a lot of milk dumping in MIchigan, but other products, such as squash, suffered because restaurants were shut down.

The first CFAP program received many good reviews and many farmers told Johnson that it did cover a little bit of the expenses related to COVID-19.

More information about the CFAP2 can be found on the USDA’s website.

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