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UF Study: Most Agricultural Businesses Surveyed Stayed Open Through COVID-19 Disruption. Those That Closed Expect To Reopen

E Verify Florida
Wilfredo Lee/AP
In this, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, rows of kale are shown on an organic farm in Opa-locka, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Economists with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have completed their first round of collecting surveys from businesses around the state. The team collected surveys from businesses in the agriculture and aquaculture industries from mid-April to May 15.

Researcher John Lai focused on the agricultural industry. Of 729 total responses from agricultural businesses, about half were small businesses. The majority reported that they were open, and operating in some capacity.

“16 percent report that the coronavirus situation hadn’t begun to impact their agricultural operation yet,” Lai said on a conference call to share early findings Tuesday. “But, for those whose operations have felt impacts, 20 percent of respondents reported impacts over the course of about one to one and a half months. And another 11 percent felt impacts for a little bit longer – two to two and a half months, so far.”

Of the agricultural businesses that reported being closed, Lai explained 93 percent say they expect to reopen at some point in the future.

“Some of the top reasons for shutting down are also shown here. 29 percent reported shutting down due to local or municipal mandates. And 27 percent reported they shut down because their operation was unable to find customers or sell products,” Lai said.

Florida farmers collectively grow more than 200 agricultural commodities. The UF/IFAS study found average sales revenue loss across all commodity groups ranged from 18 to 46 percent, compared to the year before.

The University’s team of researchers say more surveys will be conducted going forward.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.