Call ahead before you shop

by Troy Bishopp

Let’s just say there have been some “delicate situations” in the farm stores and lumberyards across the country in acquiring spring supplies. Whether you’re trying to buy high tensile wire, bale wrap, treated lumber or cropping inputs, it might pay to call ahead to check availability before you head out.

“No one has everything they need right now,” said Tom Lyons, vice president of supply chain at Nufarm. “We’ve been on plan A, plan B and plan C.”

The supply chain crunch is widespread across all sectors of agriculture and is putting a strain on wallets, production goals, construction projects and emotions. It’s important to remain kind in the face of these frustrations because your local business person or staff have their hands tied by pandemic-induced shortages. What we’re learning is many orders are just showing up now after being ordered in January. There’s also a struggle for supplies going on between the big box retailers and hometown small businesses. Sources say “it’s getting crazy out here as more people get offline and out in the field.”

Some pertinent examples of real-time concerns suggest it pays to call ahead – if you can get through.

In a news bulletin, New England Building Supply said lumber demand has increased dramatically while supply has tightened. Prices have shot up a whopping 232%. May lumber futures contract price per thousand board feet of 2x4s jumped $48 to $1,420. “Meanwhile, the lumber industry has faced struggles of its own with shutdowns and a decreased demand for timber in other areas, like paper manufacturing and home goods, where downturns have been steep. All of this is combined with the fact that several years ago, the U.S. raised import duties on Canadian lumber, which has been causing a supply shortage in the U.S. as Canada exports less lumber southward.”

Luke Gibson of Farm Fence Solutions in Worthington, IN, said, “Four-inch through six-inch treated fence posts are scarce and if you find some, you’ll be paying almost double. We’re experiencing hyper-inflation. With the last three extremely wet seasons in Southern yellow pine country, you couldn’t get wood dry enough to treat. This timber shortage has been ongoing and is being exacerbated by folks with disposable income investing in their properties and a demand to put on some animals to stem food shortage fears.”

Fuel prices and the futures market are trending upward as people and products get moving, and are being influenced as well by President Joe Biden’s ambitious plan to slash greenhouse emissions by 50% to 52% from 2005 levels over the next decade. Per a release from the White House, the announcement was made during the Leaders Summit on Climate, during which he said the plan would create jobs, ensure economic competitiveness, advance environmental justice and improve the health and security of American communities. (See the entire release at https://tinyurl.com/w38sn3ws.)

Derrik Ellingson, chief strategic officer for Ellingson Companies in Fargo, ND, who specialize in drainage tile and water solutions, said all plastic-based products are in short supply. “I don’t think anyone could have ever expected the demand for plastic to drive through the roof,” he stated. “The car industry, boats, SUVs, side-by-sides, ATVs, home projects and all these plastic decks people are putting in has stressed the system. Everybody is spending money taking care of these things. So it’s just completely compounded into a problem that we are faced with here today.”

Anthony Jones, owner of Jones Twine and Net Wrap in Sheldon, MO, said, “The impact at the farm supply level is a residual effect of the pandemic last year which caused production problems around the globe. As we look at the supply, we’re finding out from our USA manufacturers, from European manufacturers, from your Asia manufacturers, that there is an extreme global shortage.” As a result, he said prices are posting 20%, 30% or even 40% price increases down the line, with some supplies even hard to find.

“Shipping is also absolutely outrageous,” Jones noted. “We’re seeing shipping rates double, triple, even quadruple in some areas. That’s just going to cause everything to skyrocket. And it’s also going to cause shortage.”

Although there is stress in garnering needed supplies for the farm, there is also a bevy of opportunity.

Farmers who have on-farm sawmills or are making locust fence posts are seeing a flurry of activity. Used farm equipment and pickup sales have risen sharply for local dealers. Scrap steel prices are on the rise for those who need to recycle some implements. Custom work performed by farmers is also on the uptick. Consumers are coming back to farmers markets and local meat sales show no let-up.

“Farming can be stressful, but some stress in our lives can be positive and motivating depending on how we choose to react towards the stressors,” said CCE Oneida Dairy and Livestock Educator Mary Lynn Collins. “When you’re feeling frazzled, stop and take a ‘BS’ minute – Breathe and Smile for better mental health.”

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