As I approached Grand Avenue on my morning walk, a swirling blizzard of sunlit crabapple blossoms obscured the figure moving toward me.

It was my old friend. K.C. 

“It’s a nice time of year,” I said.

“Normally, it is,” he responded roughly. “This is supposed to be the season of optimism and opportunity, but this year the pandemic is ruining everything.”

“I know,” I said. “I miss my friends and going out to dinner.”

“At least, you’re not living next to a care center or a packing plant where people are getting sick and dying,” he said. “Your neighborhood is pretty well isolated.  

“Think about how bad it is for farmers,” he continued.  

I told him that I’d seen a report from Iowa State University that said the pandemic was going to cost Iowa agriculture more than $6 billion this year. It said the ethanol industry is expected to lose $2.5 billion; hogs, $2.1 billion; corn, around $800 million; cattle, near $700 million; and soybeans, more than $200 million. 

“It’s worse than that,” K.C. said, “because that $6 billion is the difference from last year, which wasn’t particularly good to begin with.

“Sounds like there will be a lot of farm bankruptcies,” I offered. 

“Barring massive injections of cash from the feds, farm bankruptcies will explode,” K.C. said. 

“But,” he added, “this is an election year. Washington will send silos full of cash to Iowa farmers this year.

“It’s next year and the year after that when things will really get bad,” he said.

“But won’t this pandemic stuff be over by then?” I asked.

“In your dreams,” K.C. replied.

“And even if it is, we will have an entirely different economy. 

“There are forces at work now that will cause you to look back two years from now and say, ‘What the heck happened?’”

“Like what?” I asked.

“For starters: Who’s going to pay for this mess? The lawyers and insurance companies will be fighting about that until the cows come home.

“And speaking of cows,” he continued, “they won’t be coming home. If you read the fine print in that ISU study, you saw words to the effect that the closest comparisons to this crisis are the Dustbowl of the 1930s or Sherman’s March to the Sea at the end of the Civil War where he destroyed everything of value to the Confederate Army. 

“We already have farmers dumping milk and killing chickens and hogs that they can’t sell.  

“Our whole distribution system has changed overnight,” K.C. said. 

“The just-in-time pork and beef and eggs and everything else that we once sent to restaurants and institutions has to be reconfigured for at-home use, at least for a while.

“The ethanol market is busted, as is much of the oil industry. But while big oil will revive and come back, ethanol may not.

“As a result, grain prices are in the toilet. 

“Do you know who that benefits?” K.C. asked.

Before I could answer he said, “the Chinese.”  

“How so?” I asked.

“I saw a market report that said China is preparing to replenish its diminished supplies of corn and soybeans with U.S. produce because our corn and soybean prices are so much lower than theirs. 

“That’s good,” I said.

“It would be if provided a significant boost to our market prices. But it probably won’t. 

“And even if it does, the feds will just deduct any gains from what they were going to spend to shore up farmers this year.

“Like I said, it’s not this year farmers need to worry about,” he said as another wind gust stirred up a new cloud of crabapple blossoms.