From ports to farm gate: how supply chain disruptions are affecting productivity

The House Ag Committee is looking into the immediate threats to the food supply chain. Lawmakers heard from key groups about high input costs, the trucker shortage, and export delays that all threaten U.S. ag.

Supply chain disruptions from the port to the farm gate continue.

Mike Durkin, President of Leprino Dairy Foods Company, says that their export expenses have increased by $25 million dollars this year, largely because of demurrage charges that are not even their own fault.

“They have the goods on time at the port ready to go. As we’ve talked about there’s challenges on getting containers as well as chassis there, but we’ve worked very hard to be able to do that,” according to Durkin.

Major west coast ports are working towards 24/7 operation, but Durkin says that it is not an immediate solution.

“The reality of this is they know they have a union negotiation, they have labor negotiations common up in the spring time and they’ll probably have to get work through that. They’ll have to hire people and obviously train people,” he states. “In our mind, this is six to twelve months out at best.”

Part of the delay is caused by a shortage of truck drivers to move goods inland from ports.

“We have an aging workforce which is one of the big issues and the problems that they ran into with having to deal with the COVID pandemic drove a lot of those that were close to retirement towards retirement. I think, you know, we we’re having an issue with trying to bring these younger folks in is a big deal that we’re currently focused on,” Jon Samson with the American Trucking Association explains

For farmers, the bottlenecks are creating shortages on crop and equipment products needed for harvest and the next planting season.

“Glyphosphate or RoundUp for example, is basically non existent at this point. Many of these chemicals that we are looking for fungicide, bactericides, those sort of things are getting harder and harder to find and come along in a longer period of time, even if you can’t find them,” produce grower Jon Schwalls states

While the food supply is currently secure, Schwalls says that the situation could start to eat into productivity.

“The less protection products we have, the less yields we’re going to have and crop failures and that is going to tax the American farm but the American food supply chain,” he adds.

His company, Southern Valley Fruit and Vegetable Inc has had outbound freight costs to customers increase 40 percent since the beginning of the year.


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