Ag Manufacturing Leaders Explain how Worker Shortages are Effecting Them

Eskimo Cold Storage in Gainesville, Georgia can blast freeze more than a million pounds of food a day with 65% destined for exports. But the owner, Karen Reece, says the job market has been tough the last two years.

“We’ve done pretty much everything that everybody else in the entire world has done. We’ve raised our hourly wages, we’ve been incentive bonuses, we’ve raised our attendance bonuses, we’ve offered snacks, we provide meals, and it’s still very, very hard to retain people and you know, talent is hard to come by.”

Landoll Manufacturing started as a 3-man welding shop, but now employs 800 team members to produce agricultural equipment and trailers. But they are still struggling to stay fully staffed, according to President and Owner, Don Landoll.

“Our human resources department is hiring every day to try to maintain our current employment levels. We are approximately 100 short of where we need to be to get our facility to full capacity. At Landoll, we have 30 plus robotic welders to help increase the efficiency.”

Chris Hoeger, President of the Cheese Division for Prairie Farms Dairy, also noted challenges finding employees, but is more concerned about trade competitors inking new trade deals while US producers are left behind.

“Particularly for dairy products, we were facing an ever-widening gap with European Union and New Zealand, putting us at a competitive disadvantage that only worsens the absence of US negotiations. We do appreciate the administrations important work on enforcing the existing trade deals, including USMCA, but without new access, US dairy exports will continue to face a disadvantage and will fall behind our foreign competitors.”

He says last year the US exported 17% of dairy solids worth $7.7 billion, but supply chain challenges also cost them roughly $1.3 billion.

South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson says help is on the way with the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which has already passed in the house and moved out of the Senate Commerce Committee this week.

“There’s a little bit of confusion about differences in the two bills, I’ll make it easy. The House Bill is better, but the Senate Bill is okay too. So rather than focus on the negatives, let’s just continue to make progress. We’re going to fight for our preferences. Our bill is more prescriptive, our version will do a better job of providing clarity in this space. Let’s get a bill passed. Let’s get it signed into law.”

Congressman Johnson is also concerned the Biden Administration still has not appointed a Chief Ag Negotiator in the Trade Representatives Office or a USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Ag.


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