Farmer Focus: Kansas has descended into pandemic hysteria

The gist of my January article was, “take a deep breath before you panic this year”. That sure didn’t last long.

Much like Europe, we have descended into full-blown Covid-19 hysteria in Kansas.

The panic selling on stock markets has even taken over agriculture commodities on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The meltdown defies all logic and with any sort of length will bankrupt rural America – and for no good reason.

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Live cattle prices quickly fell from $1.28 (£1.10) a pound on the CME Futures to 85 cents (73p). 

This was of course due to supply and demand, right? Wrong. Consumers have panic bought meat and driven meat prices to multi-year highs. 

Much like the fire at the Tyson beef plant six months ago, the processors have not let a tragedy go to waste and are profiteering while their suppliers (rural America) struggle. 

The small, family-owned businesses in our small towns are also suffering a great deal. Restaurants have been ordered to close and the one factory in our town that makes Boeing parts is all but shuttered.

I have a friend who has a small business where he takes pictures (darn good ones) of rural Kansas and sells them to hospitals and doctors’ offices for their waiting rooms. 

In the name of prudence, he may lose everything. Meanwhile, in the closest Walmart, when people got done making a panic run on the milk, they moved to the butter. 

Do you melt butter and stir it in water for a milk substitute? That one is dumber than the toilet paper. 

I don’t dispute that the virus has the potential to be a disaster. I am not an epidemiologist, but epidemiologists aren’t economists either.

In our rush to “flatten the curve” I worry that we also didn’t talk about the true economic costs of the consequences.

These decisions are a bit beyond my pay grade, but when Trump and other world leaders talk about treating Covid-19 like the Second World War, I can’t help but wonder if they are going to leave rural America looking like Dresden or Stalingrad.

Daniel Mushrush is a Farmer Focus writer from Kansas. Read his biography.