This time of year I am always reminded of the times when folks, most of who don’t understand farming and agriculture and are challenging me on something, look at me and say, “Well you’re just doing things the way they have always been done. That’s how farmers are.” It’s hard to not feel deflated when I hear those comments. Whether it’s during a hearing at the capital where I am defending and explaining why we do what we do; or discussing important tools and why they are necessary for us to farm in Oregon, it hits me in my gut.
This time of year I think of this often because quite frankly these comments and thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth. Right now, we are currently in “meeting season” here in Oregon. I was attending one in particular a few weeks ago put on my Oregon State University Extension, and it was great! I got a ton of information which I brought back to to the farm to discuss and noodle over. So much so that I actually wrote down in my notebook while I was taking notes, “Doing what we’ve always done – nope.” as a reminder to write this blog post.
Here are just a few of the conversations on our farm from just this one meeting…
Fertilizer rates, timing, number of applications
What are ways we can control or help with nitrogen volatility
New ways to look at soil tests and question what we have been told the past few years.
Farming is not easy with all the forces outside our control, just the weather alone, presenting challenges that force you to look outside the box every single year and every single season. If I wanted to just sit back and do things the way that we’ve always done them, I don’t know that my farm would still be here. We would be growing crops that don’t profit any longer, we would be using tractors that barely run and have to be wrenched on constantly, technology that allows us to do more with less would force us to be inefficient and wasteful, our soil wouldn’t be able to grow the crops that we need to keep our farm viable, thriving, and moving on to the next generation. To us, “sustainable” isn’t just a buzz word; it’s what we’ve lived since we started farming generations ago.
Saying that we are “Doing what we have always done” is a cop out for someone who doesn’t want to take the time to actually look at the innovation in farming practices that continuously occur on farms all over the world. In fact, we have been a part of a number of trials on our own farm to get on the ground data for Oregon farmers. This is not easy to be a part of, it takes time and participation, it takes effort to not fertilize, drive, or disturb areas of your own fields. Sometimes it’s just frankly a pain in the butt.
So why do we continue to say yes when someone comes with a need for a field trial? Simply put, we can’t afford to do what folks think we are doing as they look in from the outside on the supposed simplicity of our work. We can’t stand to be left in the dust, and just let come what comes! We are farmers, who are never doing “what we’ve always done”; instead we are looking to the future to do what quite possibly hasn’t been done ever at all, and see if it works. So next time you hear that old adage, brush it off, because someone who says those words has no idea what can be accomplished by farmers with some sweat equity and soil.
Back in December two of my good friends and fellow farmers, Macey Wessels and Shelly Boshart Davis and I were given the opportunity to join Damian Mason on his podcast; The Business of Agriculture.
We covered a multitude of topics including Oregon agriculture in general, what it’s like to farm in a heavy regulated state, being a woman in ag, grass seed, filberts (or hazelnuts), trucking and straw. So if you’re interested in a glimpse into what it’s like to be a farmer in Oregon, I take a listen and let me know what you think!
You can find us where you regularly listen in to podcasts, look under “The Business of Agriculture; Episode 222 entitled Grass Seed, Hazelnuts, Trucking & More”. Or you can also follow this YouTube link to listen.
The supply chain in the United States seems to be once again on the forefront of all news media outlets. As farmers we rely heavily on trade, moving products out of the country for export, but also moving supplies into the country as imports. And I’m also a mom who (like possibly a few of you out there) relies (arguably, possibly, too much) on the supply chain to also front porch delivery many items for our family. I’m not a trade expert, I know enough to spread out the risk on our farm and try to make the best business decisions that I can. So I reached out to those who are in the thick of this whole transportation situation and have been for a very long time. Below is a recent article from BOSSCO Trading & Boshart Trucking.
It’s likely that you’ve seen something come across the news or on your Facebook feed now about the extreme congestion of container ships sitting outside of Los Angeles/Long Beach waters, waiting to berth, you’ve probably felt the impacts of supply chain disruption at home and/or your business.
BOSSCO Trading and Boshart Trucking have been in the drayage/export shipping business for over 15 years, and these challenges are some of the greatest we’ve faced to date. And we aren’t alone; an experienced employee at Tyson Foods, who has been in logistics for 45 years said this is the worst he’s seen. There’s a lot of finger-pointing, but this isn’t an easy situation you can’t blame one party or fix with one solution. There is no silver bullet. The supply chain is not flexible and we are seeing that in full force, not to mention butterfly effects creating bottlenecks everywhere. Many are at fault, and many will need to work together to successfully work through these challenges.
Here are a few of the key issues and pressure points in our supply chain:
Americans started making many purchases as soon as the economy opened back up after intense 2020 lockdowns.
This quickly emptied inventories of stores and factories, and thus began a race of imported goods from Asia to the United States in efforts to fill warehouses. As this race began, container shipping lines did all they could to get more goods to the U.S., such as loading empty containers to sail back to Asia (instead of loading with export goods) and adding every available vessel into the loop. Previously, U.S. exports were the back haul to help get containers to Asia, and as rates rose significantly, shipping lines no longer needed export goods to help move containers west. They saw record profits by prioritizing imports, and they have been greedy about it since. These volumes are likely to continue until warehouses have normal inventories, which could easily be through 2022.
Container Terminals/Portsare full. American port systems were warned of an incoming surge of imports and as expected terminal grounds/extra warehouses all filled quickly. As a result of the surge, containers are being stacked higher and being placed in every nook and cranny to make more room. But that’s not the only issue, the containers aren’t leaving as fast either. Containers aren’t available for a trucker to pick up as soon as they are offloaded from the ship to the container terminal. It may take weeks before a container is unburied from a stack and available for a truck or to be loaded for rail. And of course the trucking issues (more on that below).
So the result of this is terminals that are full of both loaded import containers and loaded and empty export containers waiting to be loaded onto vessels. Which in turn leaves vessels waiting outside of ports until there is enough terminal space for them to unload. Which is why you’re seeing 70+ containers sitting outside of LA/LB.
Terminal Hours aren’t long enough. In non U.S. terminals such as in Asia, many terminals operate 24/7, maybe closing for some holidays. U.S. Longshoremen say they are willing to operate extra hours, but in a world where no one works for free; there would be a bill to pay. U.S. Longshoremen would charge the ocean terminal, who would then charge the ocean carriers. And unfortunately at this point, ocean carriers aren’t willing to pick up the extra bill for container handling without opening the door to renegotiating contracts. And as you can imagine, currently this is a non-starter.
Truck Driver Shortage & Regulation Challenges Not only are there not enough drivers, but limited terminal hours and appointments also make it difficult for truck drivers to pick up containers. Some terminals require “dual” transactions, such as, you cannot return an empty import container without picking up a loaded import container. Some terminals won’t accept empty import containers because of the severe congestion, leaving a trucking company’s chassis to be the storage. With the increase in containers physically at the ports, importers have to wait for containers to be unburied. This process is taking up to weeks before it’s even available for them to send a trucker to pick it up. But if marine terminals are going to add extra hours, regulations may also need to change to help make this a successful move in the right direction.
Regulation continues to tie the hands of truckers and the trucking industry. Clean Energy mandates don’t help keep trucks on the road, rules around independent contracting for drivers just add more hoops for truckers to jump through along with added costs get passed on to the customer. The trucking industry and truckers need consistent regulation that they can work with in order to plan out their weeks without going over their FMCSA hours of service. Not only that, they also need the warehouses/distribution centers to have enough staff and longer hours to accommodate additional loads as well. The 24/7 port operation pledge will not work if all the players are not on board.
Long List of Other Challenges. Everything as you can see is connected, which is why this is not a simple problem to solve. This is also not a problem that will be solved by telling the private sector to figure it out, it won’t be solved by more government intervention, honestly, we don’t know how in the end this will get going in a better direction and unfortunately, it’s going to take a very long time. For now all we can do is continue to flow with the changes, keep trying to be patient and continue to advocate for those things that will make improvements start to happen.
Thank you BOSSCO & Boshart Trucking for helping to keep us all up to date onwhat the supply situation looks like here in the U.S. Follow them on social media for many updates as this drama unfolds.
Here is another article that does some explaining from a very firsthand port experience from the CEO of FlexPort Ryan Petersen. I think that this article gives some great descriptions of what is happening, but also offers some great real world solutions that could help right now.
“We must OVERWHELM THE BOTTLENECK and get these ports working again. I can’t stress enough how bad it is for the world economy if the ports don’t work. Every company selling physical goods bought or sold internationally will fail. The circulatory system our globalized economy depends has collapsed. And thanks to the negative feedback loops involved, it’s getting worse not better every day that goes by. I’d be happy to lead this effort for the federal or state government if asked. Leadership is the missing ingredient at this point.”
Will changes be made? Will things start to budge at all? Time will tell. But as BOSSCO said at the beginning of their article, one thing is sure,
“There is no silver bullet. The supply chain is not flexible and we are seeing that in full force…Many are at fault, and many will need to work together to successfully work through these challenges.”
If this blog wasn’t long enough for you….here are a few more articles that give more history and background on the entire supply chain situation.