COVID-19 Pandemic: Research and Resources - Researchers in the Department of Economics and the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University are examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on local, regional, and global economies.

COVID-19 Research and Resources

Graphs, Tables, and Charts

Iowa map showing Community Mobility Reports data

Community Mobility Reports
These maps highlight the percent change in visits to places like grocery stores and parks within a geographic area.

Iowa Unemployment Measures graph

Iowa Unemployment Measures
This chart shows unemployment measures in Iowa, including initial claims, continued claims, and total unemployment.

Beef and Pork Price Spreads graph

Beef and Pork Price Spreads
This data set provides monthly average price values, and the differences among those values, at the farm, wholesale, and retail stages of the production and marketing chain.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Iowa’s Ag Sectors

The Impact of COVID-19 on Iowa’s Ag Sectors
This tool estimates the total loss to Iowa’s corn, soybean and ethanol markets due to COVID-19.

Impact of COVID-19 on Iowa Cattle and Hog Prices

Impact of COVID-19 on Iowa Cattle and Hog Prices
This tool estimates the total loss to Iowa’s fed cattle, calf, feeder cattle and hog prices due to COVID-19.

preview of the COVID-19 U.S. Dashboard from the Department of Statistics

COVID-19 U.S. Dashboard from the Department of Statistics at Iowa State University
This tool provides a 7-day forecast (updated daily) and a 4-month forecast (updated weekly) of COVID-19 infected and death count at both the county level and state level.

Press Releases

June 15, 2020
Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Food Manufacturers Losing Millions of Workers permalink

Ames, IA – As restaurants across the U.S. have started re-opening their dining rooms for service, they’re now facing another consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic—huge numbers of employees are seeking employment in other industries or leaving the workforce altogether.

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Ames, IA – As restaurants across the U.S. have started re-opening their dining rooms for service, they’re now facing another consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic—huge numbers of employees are seeking employment in other industries or leaving the workforce altogether.

“Labor supply has decreased at least somewhat in every industry because some workers may get sick or they may leave the labor market to take care of children displaced from school, etc.” said John Winters, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University. “While it was expected, closures and reduced consumer demand severely impacted restaurant industry employment—it lost roughly five million jobs from April 2019 to April 2020.”

Winters is an author of a new Iowa State study, “COVID-19 Employment Status Impacts on Food Sector Workers,” along with Seung Jin Cho and Jun Yeong Lee, both Ph.D. students in Iowa State’s Department of Economics.

The purpose of their study, however, wasn’t to find the overall number of jobs lost in each sector, it was to examine current trends in same-industry employment. That is, they wanted to look at whether food-sector workers are leaving their current jobs for employment in different industries, or possibly just leaving the workforce altogether.

“Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, typically more than 80% of workers continued employment in the same industry, but we’re definitely seeing those numbers go down in some food-related sectors,” Winters said. “In April 2019, just over 83% of previous restaurant workers were still employed in the restaurant industry. In April 2020, only about 43% of previous restaurant workers were employed at work in the restaurant industry, which is a significant drop.”

The study also examined same-industry employment in food manufacturing, grocery stores, and crop and animal production. While the restaurant industry was hardest hit by workers leaving the industry altogether, the food manufacturing and grocery store industries are seeing the same trend.

“Between April 2019 and April 2020, the number of previous workers still employed in food manufacturing decreased by about eleven percentage points and the number of previous workers still employed in grocery stores decreased by just over seven percentage points,” Winters said.

Unlike restaurants, the loss in grocery store employees isn’t due to decreased labor demand. “Labor demand in the grocery store industry has remained strong,” Winters said. “When previous grocery store workers exit the labor force it is very unlikely to be because of reduced labor demand. We also looked at hiring of new workers not previously employed in food manufacturing and grocery stores and didn’t find significant evidence of increased hiring, which suggests these industries may struggle to build and retain an effective workforce,” he said.

Winters said it’s very difficult to disentangle the various motives that lead to a reduced labor supply, but their data showed some expected general trends, such as older workers, less-educated workers, and women with children being more likely to leave the workforce. “Eligibility for unemployment insurance, including expanded benefits from the CARES Act, also reduced labor supply,” he said.

Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be driving laborers away from certain industries and high-infection areas. “Workers have not only left their previous industry, but also decided not to look for work in areas with high COVID-19 infection rates,” Winters said.

The only U.S. food sectors examined in the study that didn’t show a reduction in same-industry employment were crop and animal production. However, Winters said that it’s possible that things may look different for those industries in the next few months as the U.S. continues through the primary growing season and fall harvest approaches.

For over 60 years, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University has conducted innovative public policy and economic research on local, regional, and global agricultural issues, combining academic excellence with engagement and anticipatory thinking to inform and benefit society.

Contacts:
John Winters, 515-294-6263; winters1@iastate.edu
Nathan Cook, Communications, 515-294-3809; nmcook@iastate.edu

June 2, 2020
Iowa State Research Indicates Behavioral Bias Increases COVID-19 Risks permalink

AMES, Iowa – Researchers from Iowa State University and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India, focused on how people underestimate the speed at which disease spreads in a pandemic, which increases their risk of infection.

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AMES, Iowa – Researchers from Iowa State University and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India, focused on how people underestimate the speed at which disease spreads in a pandemic, which increases their risk of infection.

Research on the exponential-growth prediction bias (EGPB) was published in arXiv.org. The research in behavioral psychology and economics documented how behavioral biases, such as optimism and overconfidence may compromise the perception of risk.

Researchers Ritwik Banerjee, associate professor and Priyama Majumdar, research assistant, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore; and Joydeep Bhattacharya, Iowa State professor of economics, used data from a global survey about people’s perception. The errors in perception are key to understanding their compliance with widely recommended safety precautions of frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizers, facemasks, and social distancing/self-quarantine.

“People tend to think of growth as something that happens at a constant rate,” said Bhattacharya. “But in the early stages of an infectious disease outbreak, the disease spreads at a non-constant rate, often increasing as time unfolds. This makes a big difference when it comes to people’s prediction of how likely it is they will catch the disease.”

The study found evidence of rampant prediction biases, which are a significant predictor of lower safety compliance, less disagreement with violations of safety measures, and a greater satisfaction with the government’s response to the pandemic. It also found that disease trajectory data presented as raw numbers, as opposed to the common “flatten the curve” style graphs, could reduce the prediction bias and lower people’s risk perception and increase compliance behavior.

Contacts:
Ritwik Banerjee; ritwikbanerjee@iimb.ac.in
Joydeep Bhattacharya; joydeep@iastate.edu

May 28, 2020
‘Cautious Optimism’ in Phase One Trade Goals with China permalink

Ames, IA – On January 15, the U.S. and China signed a partial trade agreement—the phase one deal—to reduce the economic pressures of the trade war that started in 2018. In the first quarter of 2020, progress on the deal has been slow due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has slowed global demand and disrupted trade, and due to China diversifying away from U.S. agricultural imports because of the trade war.

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Ames, IA – On January 15, the U.S. and China signed a partial trade agreement—the phase one deal—to reduce the economic pressures of the trade war that started in 2018. In the first quarter of 2020, progress on the deal has been slow due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has slowed global demand and disrupted trade, and due to China diversifying away from U.S. agricultural imports because of the trade war.

However, a new study from the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University, “China’s Agricultural Imports under the Phase One Deal: Is Success Possible?,” finds that China is working in earnest to meet trade targets, and that current market forces and price differences for key commodities might allow it to meet trade obligations.

Based on first quarter exports and the usual seasonal patterns of corn and soybean trade, the study predicts China will import $18.6 billion in U.S. agricultural and related products in 2020. The trade target amount is $36.5 billion, which means that if China is to meet the goal, it will have to increase its U.S. imports later this year.

Historically, China increases its U.S. agricultural imports after corn and soybeans are harvested in the fall, but there are some market signs they are increasing imports now, possibly to help hit upcoming trade goals.

“Over the past few weeks there was an out-of-season uptick in corn and soybean export sales, which suggests that China is trying to make its target,” said Dermot Hayes, a professor of economics at Iowa State and a co-author of the study. Wendong Zhang, an assistant professor of economics at Iowa State, and Xi He, a postdoctoral researcher at CARD, both authored the study with Hayes.

“This cautious optimism is supported by large price differences between key commodities in the U.S. and China documented in the report, as well as China’s recent decision to rebuild national inventories of corn and soybeans,” Hayes said.

China has decided to add 20 million tons of corn to its national inventory, but projections show domestic production falling short of consumption by 15 million tons this year, so it’s likely that China will import more than its 7.2 million ton annual import quota. That could be really good news for the U.S., as the U.S. and Ukraine are the only large exporters eligible to send corn to China.

The uptick in soybean sales is good news for U.S. farmers as well. In recent years, Brazil has accounted for an increasing share of China’s soybean imports. “Brazil’s projected soybean production in 2019/20 was more than 122 million metric tons, up from 115 million tons in 2018/19,” said Zhang. “U.S. market analysts are especially worried, as Brazil sent record monthly soybean exports to China in April and the peak season for U.S. soybean exports won’t start until close to fall harvest.”

On the other hand, a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Brazil and trade disruptions due to flooding have caused Chinese traders to consider U.S. corn and soybeans at a time they would normally turn to Brazil.

U.S. pork producers have already seen China accepting a record amount of imports in 2020. “From January to April, China imported a record-level 291,609 metric tons of U.S. pork, which is 300% higher than the amount it imported from January to April in 2017,” Zhang said.

Zhang says that the EU’s projected pork production will increase slightly in 2020, but China’s import demand for pork is surging and they will very likely purchase record amounts of U.S. pork. China’s willingness to buy more U.S. pork goes beyond the trade agreement—its domestic producers have been forced to cull tens of millions of pigs due to African swine fever, a highly virulent and deadly pig disease.

“ASF cases are much lower now, but there is no vaccine yet,” Hayes said. “ASF risks are disproportionately higher for small-scale farms that lack strong biosecurity measures, and ‘backyard’ production accounts for about 20% of China’s pork production.”

The trade deal further increases China’s obligations for U.S. agricultural products to $43.5 billion in 2021. Zhang said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought global trade levels down significantly in 2020, but regardless of what happens with the pandemic, they will be extending their study into 2021 trade. “We didn’t examine the 2021 outlook because the phase two deal terms could possibly change following the November elections. However, as of right now, the 2021 targets will be challenging for China to meet,” he said.

For over 60 years, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University has conducted innovative public policy and economic research on local, regional, and global agricultural issues, combining academic excellence with engagement and anticipatory thinking to inform and benefit society.

Contacts:
Wendong Zhang, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, 515-294-2536; wdzhang@iastate.edu
Dermot Hayes, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, 515-294-6185; dhayes@iastate.edu
Xi He, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development; xihe@iastate.edu
Nathan Cook, Communications, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, 515-294-3809; nmcook@iastate.edu

May 20, 2020
New Iowa State Web Hub Offers Resources to Track COVID-19’s Economic Impacts permalink

AMES, Iowa – Tracking COVID-19’s economic impacts, especially in the state of Iowa, is now possible thanks to resources on a new web hub.

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AMES, Iowa – Tracking COVID-19’s economic impacts, especially in the state of Iowa, is now possible thanks to resources on a new web hub.

The webpage, “COVID-19 Pandemic: Research and Resources,” developed by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development and the Department of Economics at Iowa State University, examines the pandemic’s impacts on the economy, agriculture and business across local, regional and global economies.

“Right now, you can track unemployment. You can see changes in Iowans’ mobility by county since the lockdown began and track changes in their movement patterns as the lockdown lifts. You can see economists answering questions from Iowans who have real concerns about their businesses, and more,” said CARD Director John Crespi, who led the creation of the web hub with Department of Economics Chair Joshua Rosenbloom, as well as both units’ staff and researchers.

The hub includes graphs, tables and maps visually representing the scale and extent of the pandemic's impact and features related press releases and publications, such as “The Impact of COVID-19 on Iowa’s Corn, Soybean, Ethanol, Pork, and Beef Sector” released in April. It also offers an interactive tool to estimate total losses to Iowa’s corn, soybean and ethanol markets due to COVID-19.

“I think it is a very good start to an important project,” Rosenbloom said. “It offers resources that can help producers, businesses and policymakers make informed decisions now and plan for the future during this unprecedented time in our history.”

The web hub’s hot topics include Wendong Zhang and Nick Paulsen’s presentation on COVID-19’s impact on US-China trade. Zhang is an Iowa State assistant professor and Extension economist, and Paulsen is a University of Illinois associate professor of agricultural and consumer economics.

The site also shares relevant queries from Iowans who contact the Department of Economics’ Ask an Economist service. Current questions examine beef prices, the potential devaluation of the dollar, and how to start a pandemic-related business.

“Keep checking back to see what’s new,” Crespi said. “We plan to continue adding resources in upcoming weeks and expect weekly updates to corn, soybean, ethanol, pork and beef markets that will automatically adjust as new data become available.”

For over 60 years, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University has conducted innovative public policy and economic research on local, regional, and global agricultural issues, combining academic excellence with engagement and anticipatory thinking to inform and benefit society.

Contacts:
John Crespi, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, 515-294-1699; jcrespi@iastate.edu
Joshua Rosenbloom, 515-294-1257; jlrosenb@iastate.edu
Nathan Cook, Communications, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, 515-294-3809; nmcook@iastate.edu

April 30, 2020
Iowa State University Researchers Tracking COVID-19’s Impact on China’s Economy permalink

Ames, IA – As the COVID-19 outbreak has quickly spread across the globe, it has infected more than three million people and killed over 218,000, as of the time of writing. Worldwide, governments have taken steps to reduce COVID-19’s spread, including mandating social distancing policies and closing nonessential businesses. These policies slow the spread, but they restrict economic output and demand.

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Ames, IA – As the COVID-19 outbreak has quickly spread across the globe, it has infected more than three million people and killed over 218,000, as of the time of writing. Worldwide, governments have taken steps to reduce COVID-19’s spread, including mandating social distancing policies and closing nonessential businesses. These policies slow the spread, but they restrict economic output and demand.

To help understand the economic impact of the outbreak, and the policies used to stop its spread, on China’s economy, researchers at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University have created a database that shows how impacts propagated across China’s provinces and economic sectors, both during the outbreak and when most of China began returning to work.

China was the first country to confirm a case of COVID-19, and one of the first countries to implement social distancing and lockdown policies to contain its spread. Economic researchers have kept a close eye on China, as it is not only the world’s most populous country, but the world’s second-largest economy, based on nominal gross domestic product. According to the International Monetary Fund, China's 2019 GDP was $14.14 trillion.

“We wanted to understand the impact of COVID-19 on China's economy, and how that impact transmits to other countries through economic and political links,” said Wendong Zhang. Zhang is an associate professor of economics at Iowa State and one of the researchers that created the database.

“Researchers and the general public can use it to explore COVID-19’s impact on China at the national and province level—we found, cleaned, and translated provincial sector-level data that is not easy to find in the national-level data releases,” Zhang said. “As a result, our database is valuable to the research community in quantitative trade and macroeconomic modeling—for example, our database is also aggregated to GTAP-sectors.”

“Due to data limitations, we don't have full coverage for all 900 province-sector combinations—we currently have province by sector-level information for around half of China’s provinces, and we do not provide commodity-specific information for the agricultural sector,” Zhang said.

However, Zhang said the database was constructed from a comprehensive dataset from various sources and shows a basic idea of COVID-19’s initial impacts on China's economy, and researchers can also use it to investigate how the economic shocks affect other countries through economic linkages.

Zhang said the database will be updated monthly, and, in the future, the researchers hope to expand it to increase its coverage to increase usability. The database is available in both English and Chinese.

Other researchers involved in the project include Tao Xiong, a visiting scholar at the Center for China-US Agricultural Economics and Policy at CARD and a professor at Huazhong Agricultural University, and Xi He, a postdoctoral research associate at CARD. The researchers welcome feedback and suggestions.

For over 60 years, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University has conducted innovative public policy and economic research on local, regional, and global agricultural issues, combining academic excellence with engagement and anticipatory thinking to inform and benefit society.

Contacts:
Wendong Zhang, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, 515-294-2536; wdzhang@iastate.edu
Xi He, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development; xihe@iastate.edu
Nathan Cook, Communications, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, 515-294-3809; nmcook@iastate.edu

April 15, 2020
New Study Projects Dramatic Losses for Iowa’s Hog and Ethanol Industries Due to Virus permalink

AMES, Iowa – A new study by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University projects economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak will mean steep losses for Iowa agriculture, including over $2 billion each for the hog and ethanol sectors, if the disease and social distancing policy impacts hold throughout the year.

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AMES, Iowa – A new study by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University projects economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak will mean steep losses for Iowa agriculture, including over $2 billion each for the hog and ethanol sectors, if the disease and social distancing policy impacts hold throughout the year.

As the COVID-19 outbreak lingers, 52 U.S. states and territories are either encouraging or mandating social distancing policies, which often include closings of nonessential businesses. While these policies are necessary to slow the spread of the virus and ensure human safety, they restrict economic output and demand.

The new CARD analysis, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Iowa’s Corn, Soybean, Ethanol, Pork, and Beef Sectors,” shows potential losses in every examined agricultural sector. The study finds potential damage of $34 million for calves and feeder cattle, $213 million for soybean, $658 million for fed cattle, $788 million for corn, $2.1 billion for hogs and over $2.5 billion for ethanol.

“While some of this damage has already been realized, the majority of the impact comes from the continued slowdown of the general economy and the pricing, processing and distribution of future commodities,” according to John Crespi, CARD’s director and an author of the study. “To estimate potential losses in agricultural revenues, we examine the price reactions of various agricultural markets during the pandemic and explore the revenue losses indicated by those price movements.”

The ethanol and hog industries are likely to be especially hard-hit.

“The ethanol industry, in fact, the entire fuel industry, was already in poor economic shape before the COVID-19 outbreak—energy supplies were high, stocks were building, usage was stagnant, and input costs had been rising before the outbreak, squeezing already tight margins,” said Chad Hart, an associate professor of economics and a study co-author. “On top of that, OPEC+ countries (mainly Saudi Arabia and Russia) quarreled about oil supply levels during the first quarter of 2020, which sent energy supplies higher and prices lower. And now, social distancing restrictions are severely limiting fuel consumption,” Hart said.

Ethanol plants are also currently facing a unique situation, in that the plant closures are not due to employee illnesses. “No ethanol plants have noted worker availability problems due to the virus—economic returns are driving the closures,” Hart said.
Other plant closures are being driven by employee shortages, Hart said. “Plants are closing for a variety of reasons, but for meat processing facilities, the virus outbreaks seem to be the main cause, as it limits the number of workers available,” Hart said.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is presenting an unprecedented situation in the way plants are handling employment changes,” Crespi said. “During this economic interruption, as opposed to the financial crisis of 2008, for example, firms are not cutting employees the same ways as before. While unemployment is very high—it has not been this high since the 1930s—some firms are treating this as a temporary change and are keeping employees on half-time or other pay rates,” he said.

It is difficult to predict when an economic recovery will come, or what exactly it will look like, Crespi said. “There is so much uncertainty right now. Many people expect jobs to come back once the pandemic subsides, but no one can predict when or how that will work. A breakthrough on a vaccine, for example, could change the outlook very quickly.”

Other co-authors of the report are Dermot J. Hayes, professor of economics, Keri L. Jacobs, associate professor of economics, and Lee L. Schulz, associate professor of economics. All authors are also affiliated with CARD.

For over 60 years, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University has conducted innovative public policy and economic research on local, regional, and global agricultural issues, combining academic excellence with engagement and anticipatory thinking to inform and benefit society.

Contacts:
John Crespi, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development; 515-294-1699; jcrespi@iastate.edu
Nathan Cook, Communications, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development; 515-294-3809; nmcook@iastate.edu

Publications

June 8, 2020
COVID-19 Employment Status Impacts on Food Sector Workers

Seung Jin Cho, Jun Yeong Lee, and John V. Winters

Food production and distribution is essential for human well-being, but the food sector has experienced a number of difficulties maintaining worker health and productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. We examine employment status changes of persons recently employed in the U.S. food sector with a focus on food manufacturing and grocery stores. We find that the pandemic significantly reduced the probability of continued active employment for previous workers in both food manufacturing and grocery stores. Individual-level analysis confirms that the COVID-19 infection rate in an individual’s local labor market is a strong and significant factor. The employment changes are not just due to unemployment during facility closures. Previous workers increasingly exit the labor force as the severity of the COVID-19 infection rate in their local area worsens. The considerable risk of infection drives many previous food sector workers to stop working altogether. Maintaining worker health and safety is essential for a stable food supply.

May 27, 2020
The Distributional Impacts of Early Employment Losses from COVID-19

Seung Jin Cho and John V. Winters

COVID-19 substantially decreased employment, but the effects vary among demographic and socioeconomic groups. We document the employment losses in April 2020 across various groups using the U.S. Current Population Survey. The unemployment rate understates employment losses. We focus on the percentage of the civilian population that is employed and at work. Young persons experienced the largest employment losses. Individuals with less education and lower family income experienced much larger employment losses than their more educated and higher income counterparts. Hispanics and blacks were more adversely affected than whites.

May 21, 2020
China’s Agricultural Imports under the Phase One Deal: Is Success Possible?

Xi He, Dermot J. Hayes, and Wendong Zhang

The authors examine China’s committed agricultural purchases under the phase one trade deal and whether it can fulfill those commitments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They review China’s actual agricultural imports from the United States and other countries up to the first quarter of 2020 and analyze trade deal obligations China must still meet by the end of 2020. They use prior seasonal patterns and US-China price differentials to predict China’s agricultural imports from the United States in 2020. They examine total agricultural and related products with special focus on corn, soybeans, cotton, sorghum, pork, and beef.

April 29, 2020
Exponential-growth prediction bias and compliance with safety measures in the times of COVID-19

Ritwik Banerjee, Joydeep Bhattacharya, and Priyama Majumdar

This study uses a unique, Amazon MTurk-based global experiment to investigate the importance of an exponential-growth prediction bias (EGPB) in understanding why the COVID-19 outbreak has exploded and finds that the “degree of convexity” reflected in the predicted path of the disease is significantly and substantially lower than the actual path.

April 14, 2020
The Impact of COVID-19 on Iowa’s Corn, Soybean, Ethanol, Pork, and Beef Sector

Chad E. Hart, Dermot J. Hayes, Keri L. Jacobs, Lee L. Schulz, and John M. Crespi

This study estimates the COVID-19 outbreak’s revenue impacts on some of Iowa’s largest agricultural industries, and finds overall annual damage of roughly $788 million for corn, $213 million for soybean, over $2.5 billion for ethanol production losses and $347 million in losses due to falling ethanol prices, $658 million for fed cattle, $34 million for calves and feeder cattle, and $2.1 billion for hogs.

US-China Trade and COVID Impacts in China

COVID-19 Economic Database: China spreadsheet example

COVID-19 Economic Database: China
This database shows how COVID-19 impacts propagated across China’s provinces and economic sectors, both during the outbreak and when most of China began returning to work.

cover slide for US-China Agricultural Trade and Shifting Consumption Patterns in China

Presentation: US-China Agricultural Trade and Shifting Consumption Patterns in China
Wendong Zhang; Nick Paulson
Farmdoc Daily Webinar Series "Coronavirus and Ag"

Analysis from the Program for the Study of Midwest Markets and Entrepreneurship

March 31, 2020
When cell phones don’t measure social distancing
April 2, 2020
The geometry of COVID-19
April 13, 2020
Are some state policies better at halting the spread of COVID-19 than others?
May 25, 2020
The effect of COVID-19 on the labor market and some thoughts on reopening

Ask an Economist

Quick and dirty way to total up the economic costs of COVID-19?

I'm looking for a quick and dirty way to total up the economic costs of Covid-19. Does it make sense to add (1) expected 2020 GDP losses (about $1.6T) to (2) the total cost of the federal Covid-19 response bills (assume for now that it's about $8T??) to get $9.6T at a minimum? In totaling up the cost of the Federal intervention, should we subtract from $8T the additional GDP losses that would have occurred if the stimulus spending had not been made? Also, why can't I find this kind of analysis online? Where should I be looking?

Read Dr. Harris-Lagoudakis’s answer

Save lives or open up?

In light of the current pandemic, and constant feuding about what it means for our economy, I wanted to ask what the best long term solution is for reopening the United States economy. Is it in the best interest of our economy to reopen soon, losing lives, or is minimizing the death in the long term a better economic strategy?

Read Dr. Bhattacharya’s answer

Financial time-out in a pandemic economy?

What would the impact of a Congressional or Presidential order for a “financial time out” until the virus is brought under control? This would be a closure of the stock market and suspension of all debt and rent. This would be far cheaper than throwing trillions of borrowed dollars at everyone and everything! I believe we are working on the wrong part of the “equation.” People would only have to worry about food, water, and utilities. This is a much smaller problem to solve! When the virus is brought under control, the “time out” can be canceled and the economy can be brought back to life. People will have confidence, in the meantime, that their life savings isn’t going to melt down. It is absurd to allow this virus to destroy our economy! It doesn’t have to!

Read Dr. Orazem’s answer

I want to know how to start up a COVID-19-related project, but I do not know how.

I am 16 years old and I want to start a project that makes yarn whales to give to people in the hospital during this time. If it successful and keeps momentum, I want to continue this even after the COVID-19 has subsided. A problem though, is that I have no idea where to start, what kind of permission I need from who, or anything like that. I would love some pointers and help on what to do. I really thank you for reading and answering my question. Stay strong :)

Read Professor Kimle’s answer

Farm debt data and COVID-19

My name is Tracy Bergmann, I am the Chief Examiner for the Iowa Division of Banking. We supervise Iowa state chartered banks in Iowa. We continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the institutions we regulate, their customers, and the customers they serve. Agriculture has been on our radar for sometime now, but we are trying to get more detailed data on how much agricultural debt is in Iowa, specifically what is the breakdown between Ag Operating, Livestock debt, Term debt, and Real Estate debt./p>

We traditionally get our data from two sources: 1) call report filed by banks quarterly which does not go into enough detail to get the information that we want; and 2) the banks themselves when we conduct an examination. Banks generally have concentration reports that will break down debt on many different levels; however, this doesn't give us aggregated point in time data.

I have been looking at the ISU, Ohio State University, and USDA websites in an attempt to get the data we are looking for, but cannot find it. I find news reports or research that mentions these sources, but I can't get to the raw data we are looking for. When I do find data that is close to what we want, it is a couple years old.

Do you have any suggestions on where we can find this data? We appreciate any assistance you are able to give, as we monitor the impact of COVID-19, particularly in the ag sector. Thank you!

Tracy Bergmann

Read Dr. Plastina’s answer

COVID-19: what would happen if economies decide to lower the price of everything?

Of course, as you know, the entire world has been massively affected by the coronavirus, including the world's economies. Recession will be a huge problem for many countries, even the richer countries such as the US and the UK. So my, perhaps ignorant question, as a 15 year old is - since every country will be negatively impacted by the virus, what would happen if the entire world, or close to it were to decide to just lower the price of everything, the price of buying everything, manufacturing everything, and everyone's salaries are lower too in comparison. Would that solve anything? As after all, the world's economic figures are just numbers, but could cause so much harm to everything and everyone in that country.

Read Dr. Rosenbloom’s answer

Processed Beef Price Increased but Live Cattle Decreased?

What could cause live cattle prices, that is the price paid for cattle on the hoof, to plummet, suddenly, when numbers have not increased substantially, (we were in a herd building mode following a drought), but boxed prices are at an all time high. Packers are receiving huge net profits, ($1300 per head)while ranchers are losing money. ($350 per head). Cattle-Fax and other statistics gathering reporting and marketing services predicted that cattle prices would remain high throughout the herd rebuilding phase of the cattle cycle, about 3 years. But, suddenly, and without warning, cattle prices crashed, August 2015, There was not a crash in the general economy. Live cattle are traded on the futures market, Chicago Board of Exchange. The U.S. does engage in exporting and importing of beef. Secondly, because of a fire in a processing plant, and the COVID19 pandemic, the problems in the cattle industry have come to the attention of the federal govt. because of food security issues.

What measures can be taken to keep the cattle industry in the U.S. from imploding? What can prevent vertical integration from further occurring? How can the American farmers and ranchers be kept from bankruptcy, (without gov’t subsidies or handouts) making sure that private ownership of land persists? What kind of market manipulation could cause all this?

Read Dr. Schulz’s answer

COVID-19: what is the possibility of a catastrophic devaluation of the dollar?

With this global and U. S. crisis because of the coronavirus what is the possibility of the catastrophic devaluation of the dollar so that my buying power is greatly reduced?

Read Dr. Orazem’s answer

Do you have a COVID-19 related question for one of our economists? Ask it now.

Media Contacts

Friday, June 26, 2020
"HOG BACKLOG ON U.S. FARMS COULD HIT 2 MILLION HEAD"
Lee Schulz was interviewed about hog backlogs on US farms.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020
"With losses mounting, Iowa farmers, ag groups hope congressional leaders provide additional coronavirus aid"
Chad Hart was interviewed about financial aid for farmers and agricultural producers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020
"After warning of meat shortages, companies exported record amounts of pork to China"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by Today about US companies shipping pork to China during COVID-induced production shortages.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020
"It’s official: We’re in a recession"
Peter Orazem was interviewed about the National Bureau of Economic Research determination that the US is now in a recession.

Show all Media Contacts
Friday, June 26, 2020
"HOG BACKLOG ON U.S. FARMS COULD HIT 2 MILLION HEAD"
Lee Schulz was interviewed about hog backlogs on US farms.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020
"With losses mounting, Iowa farmers, ag groups hope congressional leaders provide additional coronavirus aid"
Chad Hart was interviewed about financial aid for farmers and agricultural producers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020
"After warning of meat shortages, companies exported record amounts of pork to China"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by Today about US companies shipping pork to China during COVID-induced production shortages.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020
"It’s official: We’re in a recession"
Peter Orazem was interviewed about the National Bureau of Economic Research determination that the US is now in a recession.

Friday, June 5, 2020
"Some Retail Pork Products Saw Triple-Digit Growth During COVID-19"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed about how the demand for some pork products has gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday, June 4, 2020
"As Pork Producers Persevere, Industry Could See Changes Post-COVID19"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed about COVID-19's impact on current and future hog markets.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
"Beef industry outlook in post-COVID-19 world"
Lee Shulz's research on livestock markets was utilized for an article about post-COVID-19 beef production.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
"POST-COVID-19 PANDEMIC: WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR AGRICULTURE?"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by Successful Farming about the possible changes to the meat packing industry due to COVID-19.

Saturday, May 30, 2020
"Opaque World of American Meat Trading Leaves Farmers Squeezed"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by Bloomberg about meat industry issues caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020
"CHINA BUYS MORE; WILL IT BE ENOUGH FOR PHASE ONE?"
A study by Xi He, Dermot Hayes, and Wendong Zhang was cited in a Successful Farming article.

Friday, May 22, 2020
"Eastern Iowa meat lockers see record sales due to processing plants' coronavirus shutdowns"
Chad Hart was interviewed by The Gazette about record sales at eastern Iowa meat lockers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020
"ISU Ag and Economic departments create COVID-19 data-based webpage for Iowa markets"
The CARD/Econ COVID-19 resources pages was featured in an Ames Tribune article.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020
"After Spring Beef Production Tumbles, USDA Rolls Out COVID-19 Relief Aid For Producers"
Lee Schulz was interviewed by Nebraska NPR about USDA’s latest Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry outlook report.

Friday, May 15, 2020
"As meat-processing factories struggle to reopen, govt. documents warn of shortages"
Chad Hart was interviewed about meat packing plant closures and supply chain issues.

Thursday, May 14, 2020
"Meat industry in turmoil as prices soar"
Lee Schulz was interviewed about meat prices and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday, May 14, 2020
"Outlook For Corn And Soybeans Isn’t Great, But It Could Have Been Worse"
Chad Hart was interviewed about crop outlooks for 2020 and the impact of COVID-19 on supply chains.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
"US meat exports surge as industry struggles to meet demand"
Chad Hart was interviewed by the Associated Press about US meat exports and stocks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
"COVID-19 supply, demand issues push largest grocery price hike since 1970"
Chad Hart was interviewed by WHO Radio about recent hikes in grocery store prices.

Monday, May 11, 2020
"Congress, NPPC seek ways to support producers euthanizing hogs"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed about hog producers euthanizing animals due supply chain disruptions.

Monday, May 11, 2020
"'You're losing money everywhere': Iowa farmers try to hang on through pandemic crisis"
Chad Hart was interviewed by the Des Moines Register about the potential losses Iowa's farmers are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunday, May 10, 2020
"America Amplified: Life, Community, and COVID-19"
Chad Hart was interviewed by NPR about the outlook for the US food supply chain.

Friday, May 8, 2020
"What's COVID-19 impact on packing capacity and price?"
Lee Schulz's research on fed cattle prices was utilized by Beef magazine.

Thursday, May 7, 2020
"Imports way off as COVID-19 slams into U.S.-China trade"
Wendong Zhang was interviewed by Marketplace about China/US trade during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020
"Toll of coronavirus being felt throughout food supply chain"
Chad Hart was interviewed by the Ottumwa Courier about COVID-19's effect on food supplies.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020
"COVID restricts meat supply, even in pork-rich Iowa"
Chad Hart was interviewed by WHO Radio about meat supplies and Iowa's production.

Monday, May 4, 2020
"ISU tracks COVID-19's impact on Chinese economy"
Wendong Zhang is quoted in a Wallaces Farmer article about CARD's new economic database that examines COVID-19's impacts on China's economy.

Friday, May 1, 2020
"Top 40 Sow Owners Expected to Lose More than $18 Million Each"
Dermot Hayes on COVID-19 losses in the hog industry.

Friday, May 1, 2020
"From caviar to apple juice, coronavirus is changing the way the world feeds itself"
Lee Schulz was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times about how coronavirus is changing the way people feed themselves.

Thursday, April 30, 2020
"COVID-19 Meat Shortages Could Last for Months. Here's What to Know Before Your Next Grocery Shopping Trip"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by Time magazine about COVID-19-related meat shortages.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
"Executive order keeps meat processing plants open during COVID-19 outbreak"
Lee Schulz on the Trump administration's executive order keeping meat plants open.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
"'The food supply chain is breaking': Farmers eye culling piglets as U.S. meat packing plants close"
Chad Hart on meat packing plant closures during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
"The Country Has Plenty Of Meat, Despite COVID-19 Plant Closures"
Lee Schulz on meat packing plant closures and meat supply.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
"Virus raises questions for China trade"
Dermot Hayes on COVID-19 and US trade with China.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
"Impacts of COVID-19 on pig production and pork processing"
Dermot Hayes on COVID-19 and pig processing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Surviving COVID-19
Lee Schulz on livestock prices.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020
When meat plants shutter, what happens to market-ready animals?
Dermot Hayes on COVID-19 and pig culling.

Friday, April 24, 2020
"ISU Professor: COVID-19 is pinching Iowa’s food supply chain"
Chad Hart on COVID-19 and Iowa's food supply chain.

Friday, April 24, 2020
"Livestock prices drop 20-40 percent since early COVID-19"
Lee Schulz on livestock prices.

Friday, April 24, 2020
"Efficient but fragile: How COVID-19 stalled the meat industry"
Lee Schulz on meat packing plant closures and meat supply.

Friday, April 24, 2020
COVID-19 Closing Meat Packing Plants in Iowa
Chad Hart was interviewed about meat packing plant closures in Iowa due to COVID-19.

Thursday, April 23, 2020
"Pandemic creates heartache for Iowa farmers, workers--and possibly consumers, too"
Lee Schulz on COVID-19's impact on Iowa farmers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
COVID-19 Impacting US Meat Supply
Lee Schulz was interviewed about the effects COVID-19 is having on US meat supplies and processing plants.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
"Swine Specialist Dermot Hayes from ISU"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by KICD Radio about COVID-19 related losses to the hog and pork industries.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
"Waterloo Tyson closure impacts workers, farmers — and Iowa's multi-billion dollar pork industry"
Lee Schulz was interviewed by the Quad City Times about the effect COVID-19 is having on Iowa's meat packing industry.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020
"The Country Has Plenty Of Meat, Despite COVID-19 Plant Closures"
Lee Schulz was interviewed by Iowa Public Radio about how COVID-19 is affecting US meat supplies.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020
"'Horrible choices': Iowa livestock producers may have to euthanize pigs as packing plants struggle"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by the Des Moines Register about meat processing plant closures due to COVID-19.

Friday, April 17, 2020
"Why Americans may see a meat shortage during the coronavirus outbreak"
Dermot Hayes and Chad Hart were interviewed by the Associated Press about meat shortages during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Thursday, April 16, 2020
"With schools and coffee shops closed, Illinois dairy farmers face tough choices in an economy battered by coronavirus"
Chad Hart was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about for a story about the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on Illinois' dairy farmers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020
"LIVESTOCK-Cattle, hog futures recover; more U.S. meat plants shut"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by Reuters about the impact of COVID-19 on US meat supplies.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020
"COVID-19: It’s Not a Repeat of the 1990s for Pig Farmers"
Lee Schulz was interviewed by Farm Journal's Pork about disruptions in livestock prices due to COVID-19.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020
"Livestock farmers closely watching outbreaks at food processing plants"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by KWWL NBC channel 7 about COVID-19 outbreaks at meat processing plants.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020
"COVID-19 crisis today on farm; not in pork supply at grocery stores"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by National Hog Farmer about COVID-19's impact on the hog supply chain.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020
"Slow retail business and plant shutdowns could impact pork prices"
Lee Schulz was interviewed by Radio Iowa about the effects COVID-19 is having on livestock industries and consumer prices.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020
"Farm Management Resources Available during COVID-19"
Chad Hart was interviewed by Hoard's Dairyman about farmer resources available during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Monday, April 13, 2020
"Smithfield Foods to close Sioux Falls plant indefinitely amid COVID-19"
Lee Schulz's research on livestock markets was utilized by Beef Magazine for an article about plant closures.

Monday, April 13, 2020
"Slaughterhouses that Supply America's Meat are Starting to Close"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by Bloomberg about slaughterhouse closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Thursday, April 9, 2020
"From closed factories to falling corn prices, rural Iowa feel widespread impact of the coronavirus pandemic"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by the Des Moines Register about the impact of the coronavirus on Iowa's rural communities.

Sunday, April 5, 2020
"Foreign markets eager for U.S. pork, beef despite COVID-19-related travel cutbacks"
Lee Schulz was interviewed by the Sioux City Journal about current foreign market demand for U.S. pork and beef.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
"Panic buying — and hoarding — drive higher prices for eggs, milk and other staples"
Lee Schulz was interviewed by the Des Moines Register about consumers' panic buying during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday, March 23, 2020
"Virus creates trade deal uncertainty"
Wendong Zhang was interviewed by Farm Progress about uncertainty surrounding the US-China trade deal due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday, March 19, 2020
"ISU: Coronavirus Creates Trade Deal Uncertainty"
Wendong Zhang was interviewed by USAgNet about the impact the coronavirus will have on the US-China trade deal.

Thursday, March 19, 2020
"New Iowa unemployment figures show slight rise, but don't reflect most coronavirus impact"
Peter Orazem was interviewed by the Des Moines Register for an article about a recent rise in Iowa's unemployment figures.

Friday, March 13, 2020
"The coronavirus will delay agricultural export surges promised in trade deal with China"
Wendong Zhang and Tao Xiong's The Conversation article about the coronavirus and the effect it will have on the US-China trade deal appeared on SF Gate.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020
"Coronavirus brings uncertainty to the ag. industry"
Dermot Hayes was interviewed by WQAD channel 8 about the impact of the coronavirus on Iowa's agricultural industry.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020
"Ag economist discusses coronavirus, potential for another market rally"
Chad Hart was interviewed by Brownfield Ag News about the coronavirus and other issues that may affect crop markets.

Monday, February 24, 2020
"Despite Wall Street worries, coronavirus' impact on Iowa businesses limited so far"
Chad Hart was interviewed by the Des Moines Register about the coronavirus and how it will affect Iowa's agriculture industry.

Thursday, February 6, 2020
"As the coronavirus epidemic grows, China prepares to cut tariffs"
Wendong Zhang was interviewed by MarketPlace about the coronavirus outbreak and China's intent to cut tariffs in response.

Monday, February 3, 2020
"ISU economist has unique view on China and coronavirus outbreak"
Wendong Zhang was interviewed by Radio Iowa about the coronavirus outbreak in China.

External Resources