Rural counties are in a fragile spot economically after years of weakness in farming and manufacturing, as well as a weaker recovery since the Great Recession. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has pressured the U.S. economy to the point that it’s facing another downturn. 

Politico says the pandemic has put a dent in global trade and U.S. commodity prices. 

It’s the latest economic challenge for farmers and ranchers after being hit by years of tariffs and weather challenges. 

“These are ‘black swan’ events, the kinds of things that you can’t plan for,” says John Newton, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau. “It’s a shock to the economy that we will recover from, it’s just a matter how long the drag will be on this.” 

Mark Scanlan is senior vice president of agriculture and rural policy with the Independent Community Bankers of America. 

Scanlan says, “It’s not just the farmers, it’s the Main Street businesses that they’re doing business with, the people that are employed by the processing and distribution chain.” 

Rural demographics could make it even more of a challenge to eventually bounce back, because the most isolated rural counties saw the biggest population loss and have the highest poverty rates.