Daniel Rayzel / KSJD

Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs have seen a jump in customers as the effects of the coronavirus cause worry for the stability of the U.S. food supply chain. Some consumers are now opting to buy a seasonal share to receive a weekly supply of local goods, rather than shop entirely at grocery stores.

Lily Jamison-Cash

Farmers markets are known for being more than a place to buy directly from local vendors. It’s also an opportunity to meet new people, catch up with friends, and hear live music.

This year, concerns about spreading the coronavirus will require markets to cut back on its social aspect. 

Water agencies throughout the West are changing their operations during the coronavirus outbreak to make sure cities and farms don't run dry.

Their responses range from extreme measures to modest adjustments to ensure their most critical workers don't succumb to the virus.

Parker Smith grows corn and soybeans on land near Champaign, Ill., together with his father and uncle. But Smith Farms doesn't own most of the land it uses. "About 75 percent of what we farm is rented ground," he says.

This is common. Across the Midwest, about half of all the farmland is owned by landlords who live somewhere else. Farmers compete to rent that land. "There's only so much ground, and most of the farmers out there want more, so obviously it gets pretty competitive," Smith says.

In 2019, the federal government delivered an extraordinary financial aid package to America's farmers. Farm subsidies jumped to their highest level in 14 years, most of them paid out without any action by Congress.

The money flowed to farmers like Robert Henry. When I visited in early July, many of his fields near New Madrid, Mo., had been flooded for months, preventing him from working in them. The soybeans that he did manage to grow had fallen in value; China wasn't buying them, in retaliation for the Trump administration's tariffs.