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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Joint Committee on Agriculture heard testimony on Thursday about the economic impact of COVID-19 on Missouri’s agriculture industry.

University of Missouri Agriculture Economist Scott Brown offered an estimate of what COVID-19 will mean for Missouri farmers and ranchers.

“My estimate of what’s the loss for cash receipts due to coronavirus in 2020 is somewhere around about $850 million,” said economist Scott Brown.

Brown said the fluid nature of the pandemic will likely result in changes, in his estimate, but said it should give the state an idea of the toll the virus has taken.

He pointed out there will be some relief from the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Brown told the committee the program is expected to provide Missouri farmers and ranchers somewhere in the range of $500 to $700.

“So it doesn’t make us whole, but it certainly helps,” said Brown.

One of the results of workers at slaughter facilities getting sick from COVID-19 has been a loss in meatpacking capacity. That’s resulted in falling prices for ranchers.

Brown suggested the state examine the possibility of using automation at slaughter facilities in the future.

The committee will eventually present a report to the legislature.