It’s the time of year when people look forward to longer days, sunshine and warming temperatures. By now, wet conditions permitting, early garden crops have been planted, calves are on the ground, and it’s time to get fertilizer on pastures and hay ground.
This year, however, we have bigger worries than rain and continued wet conditions, as the entire globe is in the grasp of a pandemic. Schools, churches and some businesses have had to change how they work. Governmental agencies that have stayed open are doing so under lock-down and working by appointment only. People are told to stay home and practice heightened levels of hygiene. We are told that even if the virus hasn’t made it to our area yet, it eventually will and we need to be ready.
Concern about shortages has led to panic buying and empty shelves in the supermarkets. International trade has been threatened and commodity prices have swung widely from day to day. Livestock futures plummeted and then regained ground only to dip again, leaving local cattlemen worried about the market for feeder calves. The high consumer demand and low commodity prices has everyone wondering where things are headed.
Where does all this leave people who live and work on farms? Crops need to be planted on time, livestock needs care and products need to get to markets. Plans to improve farm infrastructure and husbandry practices need to proceed if our businesses are to remain viable. And, in the end, Americans need to be fed.
For this reason the agriculture sector has been designated “critical infrastructure,” exempting it from some of the restrictions being placed on other sectors. In order to feed the county, we need to be able to continue to plant crops, care for livestock, buy inputs, and market products. The government has also passed the CARES Act, which provides specific support to the agriculture sector to make sure that it stays viable through the crisis.
At this time, MU Extension, county Extension offices and other agencies such as NRCS are putting a hold on many face-to-face activities and postponing events to ensure that we are not contributing to the spread of the virus in the community. We are, however, still here to assist and are continually trying to find ways to reach out to people. How we are able to work has been changing day by day over the last couple weeks and will probably continue to change in the weeks to come.
One thing that has been constantly clear is that we need to find new, innovative ways to continue to support farmers and the community. This means relying on various internet-based information technologies (emails, Facebook, online classes, etc.) to provide information and training. This being the case, all of us (including you) are going to have to up our game when it comes to using our computers.
In the meantime, here are some resources you can use:
•Facebook: University of Missouri Texas County Extension; Agriculture & Environment Extension – University of Missouri; Mizzou Weed Science; Forage Research and Extension.
Please continue to reach out and find the information you need to keep your farming activities going. Also, it might be a good year to expand your home garden as well. The Texas County Extension office in Houston is currently open regular hours. It is accepting soil samples and directing inquiries. Extension specialists have been asked to work from home, but the office will be able to assist you getting in touch with the proper specialist to address your need.
We all need to be careful in these unsure times, but as Critical Infrastructure it’s more important than ever that our farms continue to produce.
For more information contact me at 417-967-4545 or stop by the office at 114 West Main Street in Houston between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.
Eric Meusch is an agriculture educator with the University of Missouri Extension. To contact him, call the Extension office in Houston at 417-967-4545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is at 114 W. Main St. in Houston. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.