Agriculture supply chain disruptions continue

May 24, 2022
Agriculture supply chain issues continue to cause disruptions for farmers, ranchers and retailers. Justin Cauley, senior director of transportation at CHS, explains how transportation industry labor shortages are playing a role and what to expect.

If you’ve had trouble securing the inputs you need to manage your farm or ranch, you’re not alone. Several factors continue to plague the agriculture supply chain, making it challenging to meet production demands. Whether you’re purchasing fertilizer, herbicides, equipment or other supplies, expect longer than normal lead times to get essential products.

Labor shortages remain

Justin Cauley, senior director of transportation at CHS, says transportation labor shortages are contributing to supply chain issues in the agriculture industry.

“Railroads, barge lines, trucking companies and many other parts of the supply chain are still dealing with unanticipated demand surges and unprecedented hiring issues,” says Cauley. “Working in a transportation job where you’re away from home for weeks is not attractive to many potential employees joining the workforce. That’s making it difficult to keep supply chains robust with the industry’s current growth trajectory.”

Labor issues started before the pandemic, but have been magnified due to rapid growth of remote work opportunities. “The pandemic accelerated these labor issues by allowing employees more flexibility, which isn’t possible with many supply chain industrial jobs as they exist today,” says Cauley. “It’s critical to find ways to attract workers to transportation roles or move products with less labor to avoid long-term supply chain impacts.”

Anticipate possible disruptions

Farmers, ranchers and retailers should stay vigilant to transportation issues to prepare for potential operational disruptions, says Cauley. He adds that because many inputs for equipment are manufactured overseas, the long lead times, among other factors, have created tremendous backlogs for a variety of products.

“Looking at container rates alone, there are some signs that the macroenvironment is returning to normal, but many are holding their breath about the impact of China’s extended COVID lockdowns on the supply chain,” he says. Labor negotiations at ports could also impact logistics, so Cauley recommends keeping a pulse on what’s happening globally with the agriculture supply chain as you plan for future needs.