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Due to concerns over the coronavirus, Adam Fraley expects more online bidding during his consignment sale on March 21. The event has been held every year since 1986 and was canceled only once due to a blizzard.

Editor’s note: A news article on this big annual sale in Muncy, Pennsylvania, going on as planned is published in the March 21 print edition of Lancaster Farming, which went to press Thursday morning. Since then, we have learned that the event has been postponed. If you were planning to attend, please take note.

The spread of the coronavirus caused another disruption on the agriculture landscape when the Fraley Auction Company on Thursday decided to postpone its annual spring consignment sale.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control recommended canceling events with 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, and President Donald Trump went as far as to urge Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. The sale, which features several thousand pieces of equipment and attracts roughly 8,000 people, was scheduled for Saturday, March 21.

The postponement concludes a rapid turn of events regarding the status of the auction, which is among the largest consignment sales on the East Coast. As of Tuesday, March 17, the Fraley family said the sale would still be held, with a few precautions to help protect on-site bidders. By Wednesday evening, as the number of coronavirus cases continued to grow in the state, the family issued an advisory on their Facebook page recommending that bidders stay home and bid online.

But on Thursday afternoon, as the coronavirus situation worsened, Adam Fraley made the decision to postpone the sale.

On March 16, Gov. Tom Wolf declared a state of emergency and ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses for two weeks. Even though agriculture is considered an essential business, Fraley said he just couldn't hold the auction on site.

"It was the toughest decision I ever made in my life," he said. "We have people that need money and are counting on us to sell their equipment, but we just can't do it on-site.

"The people that come out to this event, they're the heart of the sale. And we just can't have them here right now."

Fraley said the sale could be held after the two-week slowdown or whenever things improve. Because the equipment is already on location, the auction could be ready to go with a week's notice.

"If the President says it's OK to open things up, we can go the following weekend," Fraley said, adding that an online only sale would be an option if the impact from the virus continues indefinitely.