Trump backs work incentives as part of next stimulus bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he supports another coronavirus stimulus bill but wants it to include incentives for Americans to go back to work, setting up a clash with Democrats in Congress over jobless benefits.

“We want to create a very great incentive to work. So, we’re working on that and I’m sure we’ll all come together,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

The remarks indicate the Trump administration will oppose an effort by Democrats in Congress to renew a $600 supplement to weekly jobless benefits set to expire at the end of July that was contained in earlier coronavirus relief legislation.

Many Republicans have argued that the supplemental benefit encourages workers to remain unemployed and they would prefer to provide a benefit for workers returning to the job.

Trump said the structure of the last round of financial aid to struggling Americans created a disincentive for people to return to work.

“It was an incentive, not to go to work. You’d make more money if you don’t go to work – that’s not what the country is all about,” Trump said in the interview. “And people didn’t want that. They wanted to go to work, but it didn’t make sense because they make more money if they didn’t.”

Administration officials have said they will calibrate their response in terms of further stimulus based on economic data set to roll in over the next couple of weeks. Negotiations over another relief bill are not expected to pick up until Congress returns from a break for the July 4 Independence Day holiday.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Jonathan Oatis)

Coronavirus may have infected 10 times more Americans than reported, CDC says

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Government experts believe more than 20 million Americans could have contracted the coronavirus, 10 times more than official counts, indicating many people without symptoms have or have had the disease, senior administration officials said.

The estimate, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is based on serology testing used to determine the presence of antibodies that show whether an individual has had the disease, the officials said.

The officials, speaking to a small group of reporters on Wednesday night, said the estimate was based on the number of known cases, between 2.3 million and 2.4 million, multiplied by the average rate of antibodies seen from the serology tests, about an average of 10 to 1.

“If you multiply the cases by that ratio, that’s where you get that 20 million figure,” said one official.

If true, the estimate would suggest the percentage of U.S. deaths from the disease is lower than thought. More than 120,000 Americans have died from the disease since the pandemic erupted earlier this year.

The estimate comes as government officials note that many new cases are showing up in young people who do not exhibit symptoms and may not know they have it.

Officials said young people with no symptoms, but who are in regular contact with vulnerable populations, should proactively get tested to make sure they do not spread it.

“We have heard from Florida and Texas that roughly half of the new cases that are reporting are people under the age of 35, and many of them are asymptomatic,” one official said.

The CDC has sent 40 response teams to help deal with the outbreaks, they said.

More than 36,000 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded nationwide on Wednesday, just shy of the record 36,426 on April 24, concentrated on states that were spared the brunt of the initial outbreak or moved early to lift restrictions aimed at curbing the virus’ spread.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Trump backs more aid for Americans amid coronavirus: Scripps

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he supported the idea of giving Americans a second round of financial aid amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Asked if he backed another payment for Americans, Trump told Scripps Networks in an interview that he backed sending out a second check. “We will be doing another stimulus package” with Congress, he added, saying the bipartisan measure would come “over the next couple of weeks probably.”

(Reporting by Susan Heavey)

U.S. labor market recovery stalling; second wave of layoffs underway

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, but the pace of decline appears to have stalled amid a second wave of layoffs as companies battle weak demand and fractured supply chains, supporting views that the economy faces a long and difficult recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

The Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report on Thursday, the most timely data on the economy’s health, sketched a picture of a distressed labor market even though employers hired a record 2.5 million workers in May as businesses reopened after shuttering in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19. At least 29 million people are collecting unemployment checks.

Stubbornly high joblessness could stifle the nascent signs of economic recovery that had been flagged by a record jump in retail sales in May and a sharp rebound in permits for future home construction. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers this week that “significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery.”

The economy fell into recession in February.

“The recent sightings of green shoots for economic growth are going to fade in a hurry if workers can’t return to the jobs they lost during the pandemic recession,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “Over 20 million out of work without a paycheck is a lot of spending missing from the economy.”

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 58,000 to a seasonally adjusted 1.508 million for the week ended June 13, the government said. Data for the prior week was revised to show 24,000 more applications received than previously reported, bringing the tally for that period to 1.566 million.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dropping to 1.3 million in the latest week. The 11th straight weekly decrease pushed claims further away from a record 6.867 million in late March. Still, claims are more than double their peak during the 2007-09 Great Recession.

“The fear of a second wave of layoffs, as industries not directly affected by COVID-caused shutdowns have started to shed workers, appears to have begun,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Virginia.

A separate report from the Philadelphia Fed on Thursday showed labor market conditions remained depressed in June at factories in the mid-Atlantic region even as manufacturing activity in the region that covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware rebounded sharply.

Stocks on Wall Street were trading lower on the claims report and rising COVID-19 infections in parts of the country. The dollar rose against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury prices were higher.

MILLIONS ON UNEMPLOYMENT ROLLS

From manufacturing, retail, information technology and oil and gas production, companies have announced job cuts. State and local governments, whose budgets have been shattered by the COVID-19 fight, are also cutting jobs.

Economists expect an acceleration in layoffs when the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, part of a historic fiscal package worth nearly $3 trillion, giving businesses loans that can be partially forgiven if used for wages, runs out.

They attributed to the PPP a drop in the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid from a record 24.912 million in early May. But these so-called continued claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, also appear to have since stalled. The claims report showed continuing claims dropped 62,000 to 20.544 million the week ending June 6.

Initial claims covered the week during which the government surveyed establishments for the nonfarm payrolls component of June’s employment report. But economists cautioned that claims were no longer a good predictor of job growth.

The government has expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits to include the self-employed and independent contractors who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including through lost employment, reduced hours and wages. These workers do not qualify for the regular state unemployment insurance.

They must file under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and are not included in the initial claims count. Applications for PUA increased 66,063 to 760,526 last week.

A total of 29.2 million people were receiving unemployment benefits under all programs during the week ending May 30, the latest available data, down from 29.5 million in the prior period.

“Employment may rise on a net basis in June as the economy reopens and workers are recalled, but the initial claims data suggest that there is still a steady stream of new layoffs as corporations adjust to the new coronavirus reality,” said Lou Crandall, chief economist of Wrightson ICAP in Jersey City, New Jersey.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Trump to lay out strategy Wednesday to prevent suicides by veterans: officials

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration will lay out a broad strategy on Wednesday aimed at helping to prevent suicides by U.S. veterans and other Americans, administration officials told Reuters.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will hold an event at the White House to highlight the plan, which outlines a set of recommendations including starting a public health awareness campaign, providing suicide prevention training and improving research.

“By employing a public-health approach to suicide prevention, President Trump’s roadmap will equip communities to help veterans get the right care, whenever and wherever they need it,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie said in a statement.

The plan, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters ahead of its release, says the number of suicides in the United States increased by 35 percent from 1999 to 2018, when 48,344 deaths were estimated to have resulted from suicide.

Veterans and active members of the military are especially vulnerable.

Following one of the recommendations, the administration plans to launch an awareness campaign later this summer that will seek to change the culture around suicide, encouraging veterans and others to talk about mental health issues rather than taking their lives.

The administration is also looking at legislative options to help in the effort, one official said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Voices from U.S. protests against police brutality: ‘You can’t just sit on the sidelines’

By Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Americans have taken to the streets following the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer pinned his knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Protesters and activists say Floyd’s death, captured on video, is a particularly stark example of why U.S. policing policies should be reformed, and particularly their treatment of black men and women.

Police-involved fatalities in the United States average nearly three deaths per day, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed. Black and Latino men in the United States are twice as likely as white men to die during interactions with police.

Americans of all ages and races are pushing for police reform. Here are five who marched on Saturday in Washington, D.C.

ZEKE THOMAS

Zeke Thomas, 30, who works at a child welfare agency, attended the protest with his five-year-old son, Jay, in part to “show him how to fight, the proper way to fight.”

Asked what he wanted to see emerge from these protests, Thomas said, “Change, like actions that show that black lives matter.” He added that he wanted to see reforms made within police departments on their use of force and their general culture.

Patrick Keyser, an Episcopal priest, poses for a portrait as he takes part in a protest against racial inequality, in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, in Washington, U.S. June 6, 2020. Picture taken June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

PATRICK KEYSER:

Patrick Keyser, 27, is an Episcopal priest who said he was attending the protest to show solidarity with the demonstrators and hoped they would lead to “an end to police brutality and the killing of black bodies at the hand of the police.”

“There comes a point where you can’t just sit on the sidelines. … I can’t quite put my hands on it, but there’s sort of this intangible spirit that I think anyone feels present here that are driving people to stand up peacefully.”

ANGELO VILLAGOMEZ:

Angelo Villagomez, 41, a resident of Washington, D.C. who is originally from the Northern Mariana Islands, said he hoped the protests would bring about a more just society.

“Today’s march is about ‘Black Lives Matter.’ It’s about George Floyd and all the young black men who lost their lives to” police brutality, the ocean conservationist said.

“People are listening maybe for the first time in their lives,” he added.

SAM GOLDMAN:

Sam Goldman, 33, drove to Washington, D.C. from her home of Philadelphia to be part of the protests. An organizer for the group Refuse Fascism, Goldman said she wanted to see an end to the presidency of Donald Trump.

“I genuinely do want to see the end to being murdered by the police … I want to see that there is no more police state,” Goldman said. She does not think those changes are possible if Trump wins the Nov. 3 election.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

Katrina Fernandez, 42, is a homemaker who lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The mother of eight children aged three to 23, said her family drove nearly two hours to the federal district to teach her children about social justice.

“I felt like the best thing that I could do was come out here and show them what it feels like to be on the front line of something that we really, really believe in and that we want to see a change in,” Fernandez said, who was at the protest with her husband and seven of her eight children. Her oldest son is in the Army and stationed in Afghanistan.

Fernandez said she wanted to see “bad cops” thrown off police departments and the convictions of the officers involved in Floyd’s killing.

“It’s a real bad shame that I feel more safe with my son overseas deployed in a war-torn country than I do on American soil as a black civilian in civilian clothes,” Fernandez said.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Heather Timmons and Lisa Shumaker)

Researchers revise U.S. COVID-19 death forecast upward again

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – A newly revised coronavirus mortality model predicts more than 147,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 by early August, up nearly 10,000 from the last projection, as restrictions for curbing the pandemic are relaxed, researchers said on Tuesday.

The latest forecast from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reflects “key drivers of viral transmission like changes in testing and mobility, as well as easing of distancing policies,” the report said.

The revision reinforced public health warnings, including U.S. Senate testimony on Tuesday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, that prematurely lifting lockdowns could lead to more outbreaks of the respiratory virus.

Fauci and other medical experts have urged caution in relaxing restraints on commerce before diagnostic testing and the ability to trace close contacts of infected individuals can be vastly expanded, along with other safeguards.

IHME researchers acknowledged that precise consequences of moves to reopen shuttered businesses and loosen stay-at-home orders are difficult to gauge.

“The full potential effects of recent actions to ease social distancing policies, especially if robust containment measures have yet to be fully scaled up, may not be fully known for a few weeks due to the time periods between viral exposure, possible infection and full disease progression,” the report said.

COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has already claimed nearly 81,000 lives in the United States, out of more than 1.36 million known infections, according to a Reuters tally.

The revised IHME model, frequently cited by the White House and other public health authorities, predicted that the cumulative U.S. death toll will climb to 147,040 by Aug. 4, up 9,856 from the institute’s previous update on Sunday.

A week earlier, the model had sharply increased the figure to nearly 135,000 deaths, almost double its April 29 forecast, citing steps in about 30 states to ease social-distancing requirements.

The clamor to reopen businesses ranging from restaurants to auto plants has only gained momentum since then as unemployment hit levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The projections are presented as a range, with the latest forecast – 147,00-plus deaths – representing the average between a best-case scenario of 102,783 lives lost and a worst-case scenario of 223,489 fatalities.

The forecasts have fluctuated over the past couple of months, with a projected death toll as low as 60,000 on April 18.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler and Cynthia Osterman)

More Americans return to work; concerns grow of a second virus wave

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) – Factory workers began returning to assembly lines in Michigan on Monday, paving the way for the reopening of the U.S. auto sector but stoking fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections as strict lockdowns are eased across the country.

With millions of Americans thrown out of work and economic activity cratering, a growing number of states are ending the tough restrictions that were put in place in March and April to slow the spread of the outbreak.

Some auto suppliers in Michigan, a Midwest industrial powerhouse hard hit by the pandemic and its economic fallout, reopened plants on Monday with skeleton crews to get ready for the planned May 18 restart of auto production.

“We’re starting up our foundry this week in anticipation of the orders coming in next week,” Joe Perkins, chief executive of Busche Performance Group, an engineering, casting and machining firm, said in a telephone interview. Busche had been making parts for non-auto customers deemed essential, such as Deere & Co and Emerson Electric Co, but is now firing up its furnaces for auto customers and training employees on how to be safe during the pandemic.

Detroit’s Big Three automakers – General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV – have said they plan to restart vehicle production at their North American plants on May 18.

The auto sector accounts for 6% of U.S. economic output and employs more than 835,000 Americans. The government of Mexico, another important link in North America’s automobile production chain, is expected to make an announcement this week regarding its plans for the industry.

Overall, more than 80,000 Americans have died in the pandemic out of more than 1.34 million known U.S. infections tallied since Jan. 20, according to a Reuters tally. Michigan has counted more than 4,500 deaths related to COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, ranking fourth among the 50 U.S. states.

In Ohio, another highly industrial state, the vast majority of retail shops can start serving customers on Tuesday.

Even New York, the epicenter of the U.S. crisis, was set to relax social distancing measures by week’s end in some parts of the state outside Greater New York City.

NEW YORK PHASE-IN

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he expected several parts of the state to begin a phased-in reopening as soon as this weekend after his stay-at-home order expires on May 15.

Certain low-risk businesses and activities like landscaping, tennis courts and drive-in theaters will open, Cuomo told a news conference. “We took the worst situation in the nation and changed the trajectory,” he said.

Rural parts of New York will begin to emerge from the statewide lockdown first. But New York City and its suburbs still must clear some formidable hurdles, including forging a safety plan for its regional subway and commuter rail system.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said restrictions for non-essential businesses may relax next month.

Nearly all of the 50 states have begun loosening restrictions on daily business and social life under growing economic pressure. The pandemic has put more Americans out of work than any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s and prompted the U.S. Congress to pass trillions of dollars in emergency aid for workers and businesses.

Republican President Donald Trump, criticized by Democrats for his playing down and mishandling the outbreak, has been pushing for the reopening of the economy, which is seen as key to his chances of re-election in the Nov. 3 election.

In a Monday tweet, Trump again accused Democrats of taking their time lifting restrictions to embarrass him, a charge they have previously denied.

Public health experts have warned that moving too quickly to reopen, without vastly expanded diagnostic testing and other precautions firmly in place, risks fueling a resurgence of the virus. Polling shows a majority of Americans also concerned.

A surge of new infections in Germany and South Korea, both of which had been praised for acting aggressively after the outbreak spread from China early this year, suggested early efforts to lift restrictions could be premature.

Trump and officials from his administration scheduled a 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) news briefing on Monday to discuss testing.

The White House has directed staff to wear masks at all times in the building, except when they are at their own desks, a senior administration official said on Monday. Trump’s valet and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary both tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, Maria Caspani in New York, Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lamber in Washington and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Writing by Steve Gorman and Paul Simao; Editing by Howard Goller)

Facing meat shortages, some Americans turn to hunting during pandemic

By Andrew Hay

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – David Elliot first thought of shooting an elk to help feed family and friends back in January when the United States reported its first novel coronavirus case.

Elliot, emergency manager at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, New Mexico, had always wanted to go big-game hunting and, with the pandemic spreading, there seemed no better time to try to fill his freezer with free-range, super-lean meat.

So for the first time in his life, despite not owning a rifle or ever having hunted large animals, he put his name in for New Mexico’s annual elk permit draw.

With some U.S. meat processors halting operations as workers fall ill, companies warning of shortages, and people having more time on their hands and possibly less money due to shutdowns and layoffs, he is among a growing number of Americans turning to hunting for food, according to state data and hunting groups.

“I understand some people might be driven by like antlers or some sort of glory. I don’t want to do that,” said Elliot, 37, who received a prized permit to shoot a female elk in an area of Taos County where herds of the animal graze in vast plains studded with extinct volcanoes.

Elliot plans to borrow a rifle and maybe even a horse to carry the elk back to his vehicle after the hunt in November. “I want to make sure it’s a clean, humane shot, as much as possible, and get a bunch of food.”

Game and fish agencies from Minnesota to New Mexico have reported an increase in either hunting license sales, permit applications, or both this spring.

Indiana saw a 28% jump in turkey license sales during the first week of the season as hunters likely had more time to get out into the woods, said Marty Benson, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Firearm manufacturers have reported sales increases, and the FBI carried out 3.74 million background checks in March, a record for any month.

That followed a decline of 255,000 in the number of hunters between 2016 and 2020, based on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service license data, a 2% fall, as fewer young people took up the activity, hunting advocates say.

Hank Forester of Quality Deer Management Association expects a resurgence after many Americans saw empty meat shelves at the grocery store for the first time during March and April.

“People are starting to consider self-reliance and where their food comes from,” said Forester of the hunter research and training group. “We’re all born hunters.”

‘MENTAL CLEANSE’

Teachers Brian Van Nevel and Nathaniel Evans get up at 4 a.m. to try to be first into the forests around Taos to hunt wild turkey.

Evans, a middle-school teacher, has seen a lot more people stalking birds this year.

A town councilor as well, he is hunting not just for food but to reconnect with himself at a time when he is guiding Taos’ response to the pandemic as well as teaching online classes.

“Its been so important for me, being able to go out and kind of cleanse my mental card and just go and be present, you really have to be present, and quiet and listening,” said Evans, 38, who in April shot a 17-pound (7.7-kg) bird.

Some states such as Washington and Illinois closed state lands as the virus spread, prompting the National Rifle Association to lobby governors to keep them open to allow people to hunt for food.

Officials in Washington issued 10 poaching charges between March 25 and April 26 compared with three in the year-earlier period, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department reported.

‘A GOOD IDEA’

Nina Stafford, 42, a building contractor from Fayetteville, Georgia, killed her first deer in January. She described the experience as “thrilling, exciting and remorseful for the deer.”

“The coronavirus has only made me want to go and do it more so that I don’t have that scared feeling of where’s my next meal going to come from,” said Stafford, who also grows vegetables and fruit.

To be sure, stocks of species like wild turkey can only sustain so many hunters. Wildlife ecologists Michael Chamberlain and Brett Collier fear the turkey’s existing population decline will steepen this spring.

Turkey hunter numbers in wildlife management areas in Georgia increased 47% this year from 2019, while turkeys killed during the first 23 days of the season rose 26%, despite no recent increase in bird numbers, the ecologists, respectively with the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, wrote in a report, citing state department of natural resources preliminary data.

Not all states have reported an increase in hunting license applications, with both California and Florida seeing declines.

Still, big game such as deer could see similar pressure in the autumn as hunters have more time to max out “bag limits,” which in the case of Georgia is 12 animals, the ecologists said.

Elk hunts in most states are limited to a single animal per hunter who draws a permit in an annual lottery. Elliot sees no downside to paying $60 for a tag that could allow him to get close to 200 pounds (91 kg) of meat, if he can get a cow elk.

“It’s not just because what’s going on in the world right now. Frankly I don’t make that much money, so like this is just a good idea anyway,” said Elliot.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)

Farmers prosper in pandemic as Americans shop local

Farmers prosper in pandemic as Americans shop local
By Nellie Peyton

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – With restaurants shut and grocery stores posing a coronavirus risk, some Americans are ordering food directly from the farm – a trend small-scale producers hope will outlast the pandemic.

It could be one of the few economic upsides to a crisis that has emptied high streets and felled business as Americans lock down against the fast-spreading novel coronavirus.

In northern Wisconsin, a farmers’ collective said they are making thousands of dollars a week in a season when sales are normally zero.

By selling to people instead of restaurants, Illinois farmers said revenues are close to an all-time high.

Many farmers are adopting online ordering and home delivery, transforming old-fashioned farms into consumer-friendly outlets.

“In two or three weeks we accelerated like five to ten years of growth and change in the industry,” said Simon Huntley, founder of Harvie, a company based in Pittsburgh that helps farmers market and sell their products online.

“I think we are getting a lot of new people into local food that have never tried buying from their local farmer before.”

Eating local is lauded as a way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of transporting food long distances, although some studies have shown it is not always more climate-friendly.

Shorter supply chains boost resilience in a crisis and help small-scale sustainable farms, said Jayce Hafner, co-founder of FarmRaise, which helps farmers get grants and loans.

Growers across the country are vulnerable to economic shocks right now because of labour shortages, supply chain disruptions and fluctuating prices linked to the pandemic, she said.

“The beauty of the direct-to-consumer app is it allows a farmer to capture the value of their product at a near-to-retail price, and so it’s a really attractive option economically for a farmer,” Hafner said.

NEW EXPECTATIONS

Chris Duke, who owns a farm in Wisconsin, has managed a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program for years.

The CSA model gained popularity in the United States more than a decade ago. Typically customers pay a subscription fee to a farm then receive regular boxes of whatever is grown.

But with the spread of online shopping, shoppers are now used to getting what they want, when they want it, said Duke.

Using Harvie’s platform, his farm and 17 others in the area can offer customers 95 products, from vegetables to honey to meat, and their clients choose just what they want each week.

They had been thinking of doing this for a while, he said, but were only spurred to make the change when coronavirus hit.

“I love the CSA model, but the CSA model by itself is 30 years old, and a lot has changed in the food marketplace, in technology, in customer expectations,” Duke said. “It’s a totally different world now.”

Last week the farms made about $7,000 between them, which is huge for a season when not much is growing, he said.

He plans to keep the new model after the pandemic wanes.

CHALLENGES

Not all of the direct-to-consumer businesses are digital.

Marty Travis, a farmer in central Illinois, has been the middleman connecting local farms to restaurants for 16 years. He markets the products to chefs in the Chicago area, collects orders and distributes fresh produce each week.

When the novel coronavirus hit, he shifted gear and started selling to individuals – and was overwhelmed by demand.

“We could have 1,000 people tomorrow,” he said, but can only cater to 200 customers so had to cap orders accordingly.

He delivers to three dropoff spots in Chicago where people line up to collect – it is not home delivery but challenging nonetheless as farmers are used to bulk orders and packaging.

Proceeds are huge.

“We have to find these opportunities to celebrate some positive stuff,” said Travis, who is writing a book about how farmers can band together to feed communities.

Lisa Duff, the owner of a small family farm in Maryland, started offering customized, at-home deliveries last year and said it saved her when the restaurants and farmers’ markets she served closed in March.

Without a delivery person, she does most of the driving herself – which has been tough.

But she has also seen her customers nearly double.

“I’m hopeful that this will really truly help us find that local food is here to stay.”

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton, editing by Lyndsay Griffiths; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)