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Live Mic: Utah Farm Bureau president talks about coronavirus impact

Panic buying is stripping grocery stores shelves during the global coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — Panic buying means no milk, no cheese, no chicken, no potatoes and no bread on the shelves of the local grocery store. You may think farmers and ranchers must be doing pretty well during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ron Gibson, president of the Utah Farm Bureau, joined Lee Lonsberry on his show, Live Mic, to respond to the impact of coronavirus on agriculture.

Although the U.S. food supply is “solid, safe and secure,” Gibson said 42 percent of all dairy products in the U.S. go through food services, such as hotels and restaurants. Hotels are closing and restaurants are restricted to take-out orders only.

Even with the increased demand at grocery stores, Gibson said, overall dairy sales are still below levels before the pandemic struck.

No new migrant farmworkers

The U.S. State Department is limiting visa processing from many countries to curb the spread of COVID-19. New applications will not be processed starting Wednesday for the H2A guest worker program, and only returning seasonal workers who pick fruits and vegetables will be allowed to enter the U.S., according to Reuters.

Gibson said while hamburgers are being sold at drive-thru restaurants, ribeye steaks are not at sit-down eateries.

Also, he said although American cheese is being sold to put on cheeseburgers, other cheeses featured on menus at other restaurants may not.

“It’s a very big challenge for our supply chain and our delivery chain to change where you’ve been and two weeks later being in an entirely different world,” Gibson said.

Utah Farm Bureau: buy local to fight coronavirus impact

Gibson stressed the importance of supporting local businesses that buy dairy products and beef, pork and chicken.

Without that business support, “How are they going to pay their rent and employees,” he said.

If you would like to support a local restaurant, Lee suggests you start here.

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah:

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States