New Taylor Co. Extension Agent gives insight on COVID-19’s impact on agricultural industry

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Long-time Texas A&M Agrilife extension agent Steve Estes is bringing his expertise and experience with multiple farming and ranching communities to Taylor County.

A major facet of the extension agent position is communicating with stakeholders in the agricultural industry. Although traditionally ranchers and farmers do not conduct business virtually, Estes said COVID-19 has invoked a need for online meetings.

“If this would have happened 10 years ago, this certainly would have been more of a challenge,” said Estes.

But the impact of the pandemic goes far beyond communication. Estes said the distribution side of the agricultural industry has had to quickly transform, as restaurants and cafeterias are not buying product. He referenced recent videos posted on Facebook, in which some dairy farmers are literally pouring milk down the drain.

“All this came on so quickly that, that’s where it threw a wrench in things in the plans of things and how things work within our supply chain,” Estes said.

Although supply chain has suffered, Estes said agricultural production has gone unscathed during this pandemic in the U.S. However, Estes said with global turmoil, the outcomes could be different for crops such as cotton which are exported and re-imported. But, industry experts are hopeful this will not be the case. As for this year’s wheat crop, Estes said the pandemic may have opened markets around the world for U.S. farmers.

“The farmers and ranchers are still moving forward,” said Estes.

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