Farmdoc webinars help ag producers navigate the coronavirus crisis
farmdoc team

URBANA, Ill. ­– “Excellent information and speakers for people to listen to and ask questions for serious concerns on this new ‘invisible enemy.’ Blessings to all,” one viewer said. That’s a typical statement about the farmdocDaily Coronavirus and Ag webinar series, available twice a week at no cost to anyone who signs up.

When the COVID-19 crisis began to send ripple effects through the ag community, the farmdocDaily team reacted quickly.

“In this extraordinary time we try to get out as much information as we can to help people understand what's going on with agriculture, in Illinois or anywhere in the country,” says Todd Hubbs, agricultural economist at the University of Illinois.

The farmdoc program has always had a goal to provide the best unbiased economic information and analysis for Illinois, says Scott Irwin, Laurence J. Norton Chair of Agricultural Marketing at U of I. “Our new webinar series during the coronavirus pandemic is another way of fulfilling that goal.”

Hubbs, Irwin, and farmdoc colleagues Nick Paulson, Gary Schnitkey, Jonathan Coppess, Dale Lattz, and Bruce Sherrick from the U of I Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics put together the webinar series to cover a range of topics related to coronavirus and agriculture.

They started out on March 20 with a panel discussion on how the coronavirus impacts ag markets, planting decisions, and agricultural policy.

The farmdoc team continues to hold webinars twice a week, usually Tuesdays and Fridays, featuring a range of speakers who are experts in their fields. Topics include livestock and infectious disease, finances, global transportation and cash flow, farm policy, acreage decisions, lending markets, supply logistics, crop-planting decisions, food prices and the retail food sector, ag trade, and more. 

“Very informative and down-to-earth presentation with science backed experience,” one viewer said in a comment. "Fantastic presentation. I am anxious to share the webinar with friends and family so they can understand the severity of the issue,” another commenter wrote.

People can attend the live webinars or view recordings on the farmdoc website or at the farmdoc Youtube channel. Total attendance at the live webinars has exceed 4,000 to date, with viewers hailing from around the world, though most are from Illinois and surrounding states. Subsequent tweets about each webinar typically generate 5,000 to 6,000 impressions.

The webinars are interactive; people are encouraged to ask questions in the comments, and the speakers regularly conduct polls on various topics.

The farmdoc team has webinars planned until May 5, but they intend to continue as long as the need is there. The group’s mission has always been to provide timely, science-based information to help ag producers make sound management decisions, and that may be more important now than ever before. 

“We just want to get the information out so ag producers can make decisions,” Hubbs says.  “That’s why we always do what we do. And this scenario is really extraordinary and bad.”

And it sounds like viewers appreciate the effort. “This service is a nice touch since the stock market and commodity markets are dreadful. We need positive input to feel good about putting our economic resources in the ground in the next 60 days,” one commenter said.

“We are pleased to see such a great response to the new webinars and glad to see that they are helpful to Illinois agriculture during this extraordinarily difficult time,” Irwin notes.

The coronavirus and ag live webinar series is available on the farmdoc website, where you can also register for upcoming webinars.

farmdocDaily is housed in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), University of Illinois.

The farmdoc team is supported by industry donations. The team recently announced two new sponsorships, with Strategic Farm Marketing & Crop Insurance as Gold sponsor and GROWMARK as Platinum sponsor. To learn more about farmdocDaily and support their work, visit https://farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/