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COVID-19, Corn, and Employee Ownership: a Survey that Shucks Opinions within the Food Industry


What do corn and COVID-19 have in common? Beginning in March, 2020, the world experienced a conglomerate pandemic unlike anything in modern history. The early 20th century saw a Flu Pandemic, but today’s individuals have no recency with this history.  While we have emerged from the pandemic a bit worse for wear in some cases but better for it in other cases, we know that the pandemic dynamics changed the way business was done. From online shopping, to food delivery, to education, to politics and culture, we have been adjusting to a new normal for almost four years (including post-pandemic life). 

According to the March, 2021, article, “COVID-19 and the agri-food system in the United States and Canada,” corn was “the most adversely impacted because of the dual impacts of reductions in livestock feed and ethanol demand,” with some futures contracts declining by 17% over what they were two years prior.

Study and Methodology:

From November 2021 to March 2022, Braun Research conducted an opinion study on behalf of the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO).  The purpose of this study was to evaluate employee ownership of companies operating in the food industry as well as the potential impact that COVID-19 had on these companies and the U.S. food system.

Using a mixed-methodology approach (phone, online and text-to-web/ttw), we surveyed a list of senior executives within food businesses with employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and surveyed a comparison group within non-ESOP food businesses.

Survey Topics:

During the survey we evaluated areas such as workforce retention (e.g., layoffs, voluntary severance), benefits and retirement security (e.g., retirement plans, leave, etc.), and organizational performance (e.g., workforce efficiency, revenue) in terms of any COVID-19 impact.

In the End and for Future Reference:

The world has learned a great deal now having emerged from the cocoon of the COVID-19 Pandemic; we have always known that corn – and its mover and shaker Agriculture – have been the driving force for centuries behind the wheels that turn the food business. COVID-19 impacted not only Agriculture but a spiral of connected businesses; our market research provided some unmatched learnings and, indeed, gave us a view through the window of the world of food.

Please see this newsletter article from the NCEO for details about this study including some data outcomes and the survey methodology (June, 2022).

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