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How COVID-19 Pandemic, Shutdown Orders Hurt North Texas Farmers

WAXAHACHIE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - John Paul Dineen worries when it's time to harvest his corn in August, he'll lose up to $75 per acre. "It's very concerning."

With corn on 350 acres in Waxahachie, Dineen said that could be a loss reaching to more than $26,000. "That's a lot of money. It's very hard to overcome that."

Dineen blames the pandemic for the recent drop in corn prices.

When the stay at home orders closed restaurants, schools, sporting and business events, people had to cook at home.

That caused some supply chain issues at supermarkets because much of the packaging for meat and other items had to change from wholesale to retail.

The virus also slowed down production at meat processing plants, which meant buyers at livestock auctions didn't need as many cattle from ranchers.

Dineen said, "Those feed yards aren't buying corn because they don't have cattle to feed. So now, the corn we're raising is not worth what it was."

Russell Boening is president of the Texas Farm Bureau. "The pandemic has hit agriculture very hard," he said.

He said ranchers in Texas, like him, have lost $200 in value per head of cattle at a minimum. "The price of our calves has gone down. Anytime you have to hold a product like that, you're going to lose money on it."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers who suffered a 5% or greater price loss will be eligible for direct payments of up to $250,000.

Boening said, "It's going to be a great help, it's a huge help. I can tell you it's much appreciated."

Dineen said, "You can't break the farmers. You can't have them all run off the farm."

It was a decision five years ago Dineen and his family made that has really saved them during this pandemic.

Dineen decided to stop selling cattle to a livestock auction. "We were losing money on what we were investing in them. When you're at an auction, you really have no control over what the price is."

Instead, they made the decision to keep and raise their steers so they can process them and sell different cuts of beef directly to consumers.

He said during the pandemic, he's seen an increase in customers: some who don't want to go to a store and others who buy in bulk. "Being able to take our steers from that pasture right outside the door, right here to sell through these shelves has really been a lifesaver for our family."

Dineen was asked if he hadn't made the switch five years ago where he'd be right now. He said, "It's a little bit of an anxious question to answer. For different reasons, we may not be here right now."

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