COVID-19. What have we learned? – May 2020
It’s been over a month since Wyoming started seeing the affects from the coronavirus. Some states have been dealing with it longer and Wyoming was probably one of the last states to be affected. The impact has been significant, and we’ve seen a number of businesses close their doors to help prevent the spread. There are some things we can learn from this.
The U.S. food supply structure is vulnerable to an outbreak like COVID-19. We have developed a centralized or concentrated system of food processing in the United States that provides for a low cost and efficient system. Infections of workers in processing facilities has seen some of those facilities grind to a halt and the ability to find “work arounds” is challenging.
The American public, who has relied upon farmers and ranchers to provide them with their food, has suddenly become concerned over what happens when that system is disrupted. This has resulted in a new resurgence in a “victory garden” type of approach. But once again many of those folks are learning that planting a garden after an pandemic doesn’t do you very much good. Unlike the grocery store, the ground for the garden requires several weeks to a couple of months before you can get your food. If you want to raise your own protein, the backyard chicken hut will take time too. For those who want hamburgers they will learn that no matter how hard you try it still takes a mother cow nine months to get a calf on the ground and then another year or so to get it to the slaughter stage. Then there is more work to do to get to a final food product once it comes out of the ground or is slaughtered.
It will also prove for many to be beyond their skill set. Even though some politicians may think growing food is easy, many will learn it is not. If these folks persist, however, they will also learn it is hard work and the cost will be considerably higher than what they were paying at their local grocery store.
Information on COVID-19, even by many experts, has been contradictory. We’ve seen examples of political leaders telling people to keep on going to public meetings and functions and then later promoting stringent “stay-at-home” orders to prevent the spread. Information on the web is all over the place and you can find information supporting the idea that nothing should be done to everyone should be required to have papers if they are going to be out in public. According to information on RFD-TV we still don’t even know if this is a one-time occurrence, or if, like the flu, will return again and again.
What I think is one of the most important lessons is the federalism concept works. Early on we heard people calling for a federal “stay-at-home” order. For New York City this may have had some merit when you have thousands of people/square mile. For Wyoming and Alaska, it was not an appropriate response. Instead each governor could issue what he or she felt was the appropriate response. Even on a state level the response may have been overly broad, but there would have been a lot more problems if Wyoming would have had to operate under the same orders that New York is operating under.
Many in America have become accustom to calling on the federal government to solve all problems. This is just not what our early American ancestors did. They felt the state was the level for many problems to be solved. As more money migrated to the federal government through income tax collections it became more and more acceptable to go directly to the federal level and demand a solution. It has now become the first reaction to a crisis. Thus, creating a mindset among some people that we can’t address a problem at a local or state level. Perhaps more disturbing are those who don’t think for themselves but instead wait for the proper government entity to tell them what to do.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President