Demand for locally grown and raised food has risen in South Dakota as the COVID-19 pandemic caused problems in the processing and supply chains for large producers of meats and vegetables. Small-scale producers are celebrating the heightened interest in their foods, but so far, expansion by existing farmers and the launch of new producers has been difficult in South Dakota.
More than a third of South Dakota registered in-home day-care facilities -- 244 of 689 -- closed over the past five years, and financial challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic are threatening the viability of child-care centers still operating. The result is that parents who are returning to work may have fewer options for placing their children, putting families under greater stress, reducing the number of workers available to employers and potentially holding back the economic recovery from the pandemic.
Four panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities facing South Dakota small towns in a virtual town hall hosted by South Dakota News Watch on June 25. While recognizing that some hurdles to stability, vitality and growth do exist, all four experts were overwhelmingly hopeful that small towns will weather the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and more able to thrive.
South Dakota small towns are seeing both peril and some promise amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has not caused major outbreaks of infection but which has indirectly added to population and economic woes that have plagued rural communities for generations. In a three-part series, South Dakota News Watch will examine the long-term trends and the recent effects of the pandemic. In Part 1: As South Dakota’s small towns grapple with a cloud of economic uncertainty, leaders and residents search for silver linings.
A lack of moisture has created conditions conducive to wildfires in the Black Hills, including at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where the state of South Dakota plans to hold an Independence Day fireworks show on July 3 that is expected to attract 7,500 people, possibly including President Donald Trump.
Dozens of South Dakota fairs, festivals and events have been cancelled in 2020 to reduce the risk of spreading the potentially deadly coronavirus. The cancellations have eliminated a significant source of revenue for many communities and the state and have been painful for organizers and patrons who look forward to the annual events that bolster community spirit and fund local programs.
Self-employed people and others who don't qualify for unemployment benefits are not counted in official government data on unemployment, but in some cases they face the greatest barriers to survival amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to difficulty in obtaining financial help.
With working conditions ripe for the spread of airborne illnesses, the meatpacking industry and federal regulators did not fully prioritize worker safety despite warnings and suggestions from oversight agencies. Now, as many meat plants, including the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, prepare to reopen soon due to a presidential order, experts worry that workers may be subjected to conditions that will continue to put them at risk.
Hog farmers in South Dakota are selling animals at a loss, and may face the prospect of euthanizing pigs, if they cannot find places soon to process their finished animals. The closure of the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls and other pork processors across the Midwest due to the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced options for having hogs butchered and has led to a backlog of hogs that are fully grown and must be processed.
An increased need for help among low-income South Dakotans and those facing unexpected financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic is putting great stress on food banks and charities that keep poor people supplied with food and other basic needs. As the pandemic continues to harm the state economy, more people are needing food at the same time food donations and volunteers to process the food are harder to come by.
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