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Young man showing a Hampshire hog at a county fair Getty Images/Scott Olson

Wish for one more walk

COVID-19 may have stripped youth from their last chance at glory.

U.S. hog producers have taken a beating from the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it be from plant closures and slowdowns, to the resulting backlog of animals left on farms. It is hard to find a facet of American life that has not been impacted by the coronavirus.

In addition to food and products supply chain disruption, a lot of events that make America great have been postponed or canceled outright. Though I feel for the organizers and those who look forward to their annual music festivals and other community events, the cancelation of most of these didn't register with me. Hopefully, we will be able to get to the point where we will again be able to attend these such events that bring enjoyment to so many of our populace.

Canceled events that have hit me hardest are the ones that involve people who are missing a last shot. Many high school and college graduations, though not canceled, were held in alternative formats, giving the degree recipients the chance to be a part of something special, albeit quite unusual. Walking from your family truckster to receive your diploma from your school's principal is quite different than walking across a stage in a hot and stuffy auditorium. But at least they got to make that walk.

Those I feel the most sorry for are those who aren't able to take that last walk, the walk across the show ring for one last time. Many county and state fairs have been canceled, and along with them the 4-H livestock shows. I was never in 4-H, but my daughters both were, and I could see all of the hard work that the youth put into raising and prepping their animals for show day, hoping to make it onto the big "stage" of the state fair.

All 4-H members know there is a sunset to their showing career in this fine youth organization, and for far too many that sun came crashing down in 2020 thanks to COVID-19. Missed out on a state fair trip in 2019? No worries, you get one last shot in 2020. Not so, as 2020 fairs are canceled, and that one last shot of "glory" may have fizzled with those cancelations.

Not all shows are canceled, as the National Swine Registry Summer Type Conference and National Junior Swine Association Junior Show will still take place in Des Moines, July 6-11. It may not be the same as taking your last bow in 4-H, but it may offer some consolation.

We always say that youth are resilient and shall overcome obstacles that get in their way, and come out stronger on the other side. But don't tell that to one of the many youths who are losing their last year of 4-H eligibility in the show ring due to something that is far beyond their control. Missing out on your last go-around at county and state fairs pales in comparison to a disrupted food supply chain, but for these youth it is a big moment in their lives.

Maybe 4-H could take a hint from the NCAA which granted one more year of eligibility to seniors who would have completed their collegiate athletic career with this spring's schedule. Would it be fair to allow this year's "graduating" 4-H members one more year of eligibility? For those youths, yes. But what about those youths who are scheduled to have their last hurrah in 2021, only to potentially have a "super senior" casting a shadow? For those, no, it would not be fair.

But, as we have found out, nothing is "fair" about COVID-19.

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