It’s spring – the time of year when anyone involved in agriculture is gearing up for the coming season. This spring, with its cold, wet weather and the COVID-19 concerns will bring special challenges.
In order to get some perspective on the current concerns of those involved in agriculture, the North Star News contacted representatives of two area agribusinesses, TrueNorth and AgCountry.
Contacted by phone, John Oncken, owner and chief executive officer of TrueNorth in Kennedy and seven other John Deere Dealerships in Minnesota and North Dakota spoke with conviction about the company’s efforts to safeguard against COVID-19, both for the sake of the customers and employees.
His service technicians are instructed to wipe down equipment in the store and out in the field both before and after working on it. Employees can wear masks and gloves if they choose.
Store traffic is not allowed. Deliveries and pick- ups are left outside the store and specific “protocol” is followed when doing so.
He suspects he was one of the first dealers in North Dakota and Minnesota to lock the doors of his stores to the public, something he did on March 18 at 5 pm. He emphasized, however, that his company is attempting to make it “as seamless as possible” for customers to continue to do business with them through the use of technology.
AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Hallock
Chase Boen, a 2008 graduate of Tri-County High School, and current VP Branch Manager of AgCounty Farm Credit Services in Hallock, responded to several questions via email.
Of their special arrangements during this time of “sheltering in place,” Boen explained, “Our office is open, but the lobby is closed to the public. I am working from home, but our customer services representatives, Jodi Johnson and Anna Warnke, are both working in the office. Working from home has been going good as I have my office set up at home, but it is very different and I miss the customer interaction! We are working under this structure at least until April 30.”
Asked what the implications of COVID-19 are for the farmers, he responded, “COVID-19 has been financially hard on everyone including the farmers. Not only the stock market, but the commodity market has dropped as well since the pandemic broke out. Farmers have been included in the SBA-Payroll Protection Program, which can provide some relief to farmers, but the depressed commodity markets have made it tough for farmers.”
Asked if current interest rates are affecting operating loans, Boen said, “Currently interest rates are very low again as the Federal Reserve has dropped their rates again. That is a positive note going into the 2020 growing season.”
Read the full article in the April 30 issue of the North Star News.