As I write this month's column, the calendar says it's April Fool's Day. I keep hoping to wake up from this nightmare we're all in to discover it was just someone's idea of a cruel joke. But, it's not. The coronavirus pandemic is all too real. All too painful. All too consuming.
The United Nations secretary-general has called the coronavirus outbreak the greatest challenge since World War II. Nearly every day, we hear the battle cry that we're #wereinthistogether. Yet, we're told to practice social distancing and to shelter in place. How ironic for a society that's used to being connected 24/7 to be ordered to unplug. The world has been turned upside down. Nothing seems to make sense. The new normal changes by the hour. And, people are as paralyzed as the economy.
The world may be in a daze, but I'm placing my faith in the resiliency of the human spirit to get us to the other side. Ordinary people are rising up to do extraordinary things to help their fellow man. Look around and give thanks to all who are on the front lines providing essential services -- health-care professionals; first responders; postal, delivery, grocery and restaurant workers; and so many more. I see firsthand neighbors helping neighbors with simple acts of kindness, whether it's to check in and see how they're doing or give them a few rolls of hard-to-find toilet paper.
But, there's another story to celebrate and cheer as we work feverishly to flatten the COVID-19 curve: U.S. agriculture's amazing ability to keep food on the table. It has been the one constant among all of this uncertainty. Despite early panic buying and hoarding that left grocery shelves empty, the industry's distribution system from farm to fork has kept pushing on. Deliveries, for the most part, continue in order to restock shelves with America's bounty produced on the nation's farms and ranches.
Across the U.S., agriculture is in overdrive as farmers return to the fields. Spring planting is well underway, sowing seeds in the ground that will germinate, emerge, mature and eventually be harvested later in the year. Suppliers are on the job to deliver crop inputs and fuel to keep the planters rolling. Elsewhere, spring calves are on the ground. Barns are filled with pigs and poultry.
Away from the farm, USDA has initiated steps to limit labor shortages for critical tasks such as harvesting fruits and vegetables.
It's all a well-oiled machine that makes American agriculture the envy of the world.
Make no mistake: There are difficult days ahead. It won't be business as usual when we come out of this crisis. Main Street businesses to manufacturers face tough decisions. We will face our own anxieties as we put our lives back together and send our kids back to school. I look forward to when we can once again greet one another with a hug or handshake.
Meanwhile, the nation's farmers and ranchers will bring comfort to a nervous nation as they do what they do best: produce food for our tables.
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