By Stan Maddux
INDIANAPOLIS – Farmers usually don’t feel stressed out in January but lingering kinks in the world-wide supply chain along with inflation are making it almost impossible to be ready for spring planting.
Some producers might have to go about planting and raising the crops on the fly if they wind up being short on fertilizer and other supplies because of prolonged shipment delays.
“It’s clearly a widespread concern among farmers,” said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition.
His message has not changed from the presentation he gave during the 2021 Indiana Ag Policy Forum on Dec. 2 in Indianapolis. The event was hosted by the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) membership and policy committee and the Indiana Corn Growers Association.
Steenhoek said he believes the major back-ups in the supply chain blamed largely on labor shortages caused by COVID-19 are not leaving any time in the very near future.
He said the question is whether the supply chain kinks will loosen up enough for farmers to receive all the materials they need for the upcoming planting and growing seasons.
“We anticipate it’s going to be with us for at least a number of months within 2022. We’re obviously hoping for that to abate as we get more toward spring. That’s certainly the hope,” Steenhoek said.
Right now, many farmers usually have most, if not all, of the supplies they need for spring planting.
Mike Koehne said he’s still waiting for much of his materials to come in but has been assured to expect delivery of his fertilizer and pesticides before he has to start using them out in the fields.
The corn and soybean grower on 900 acres near Greensburg, Ind., said he’s trying to stay calm by trusting his longtime supplier and taking things one day at a time.
“We got a few months here before we get too excited. They haven’t steered me wrong yet,” he said.
Farmer Matt Schafer said he’s never gone through a period of so much uncertainty in advance of spring planting.
Normally, Schafer said he fertilizes before planting his ground in LaPorte and Porter counties about 30 miles from the southern tip of Lake Michigan.
He’s prepared to plant first this year if he has to, and then apply the fertilizer once it arrives and make other adjustments if pesticides are in short supply during the growing season.
Schafer also said he doesn’t plan on cutting back on fertilizer or pesticides, believing a healthier crop is worth more than the money saved from using fewer materials impacted by inflation.
“I don’t think anybody has experienced a year like this. It’s been stressful,” he said.
Steenhoek said another concern is orders for fertilizer being delayed by farmers hoping the price will come down in the coming weeks. A rush of last-minute orders could tighten any loosening of the supply chain and cause shipment delays.
“There’s a reason why farmers are concerned,” he said.
Koehne, who’s also chairman of ISA’s membership and policy committee, said there are signs of supply chain difficulties easing up at least with some products.
Koehne also operates a farm drainage business.
He said the resin needed to make the drain tile and other related products was in very short supply because of maintenance issues in resin factories caused by the hard freeze in Texas last year.
Eventually, Koehne said production ramped up again but there weren’t enough truck drivers to deliver the larger volumes of resin to the drainage parts makers, who needed more of it to catch up on back orders.
There also weren’t enough truck drivers to handle the greater number of drainage part deliveries to customers like Koehne already waiting extended periods for their orders. “Things are starting to get back to normal but it’s still a slow process,” Koehne said.