Texas cattle ranchers strive to adapt to sudden economic impact caused by COVID-19

By Sarah Downey

A new report estimates that agricultural losses in Texas could go as high as $8 billion due to the COVID-19 economic downturn.

The study, which was conducted by Texas A&M University, estimates that livestock and crop prices have fallen between 20 percent and 30 percent, and confirms what ranchers have seen since the pandemic’s spread, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) President Robert E. McKnight, said in an email response to The Center Square.

“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been and will continue to be the toughest challenge most of us have ever faced," McKnight said. "Market volatility this dramatic affects ranches of all sizes and types. Whether you have 50 head of cattle or 5,000, no one is immune.”

With close to 250,000 farms and ranches in Texas, falling prices and market uncertainty present a major challenge to the livelihoods of millions of residents.

“The Texas cattle industry is valued at $12.3 billion and represents more than half of the state’s total agricultural worth," McKnight said. "There’s no doubt the effects of the pandemic on the cattle market will significantly impact the state’s economy, but it may be years before we know to what extent.”

Texas lawmakers have been advocating for more agriculture industry funding in the next phase of federal coronavirus relief.

“No matter what’s going on in the world, we’re still ranching. The cows don’t watch the news, and they still depend on us. Ranchers are committed to caring for their animals and families, the employees who process beef and consumers, just as we have for generations, McKnight said.

“We’re facing tough times, but we’re resilient and committed to working together to solve the new challenges we face when feeding American families,” he added. “We’ve been through a lot, and we’ll get through this, too.”