GUSTINE, Calif. – Farmers on the West Coast are warning of potential food shortages caused by inflation and drought, but now, some farmers are struggling to find feed because shipments are delayed.
“We have enough of corn to hold us off for a few more days, and then we’re going to be out as well,” dairy farm owner Darlene Lopes said.
Lopes said she normally would buy corn throughout the week, but the shipments from her normal supplier have stalled, caused by a backlog of train shipments and a labor shortage.
“The primary challenge at hand is a labor shortage, which railroads are working to address through aggressive measures to attract new workers,” Association of American Railroads Assistant Vice President of Public Affairs Ted Greener said.
Greener explained that there have been several challenges within the supply chain, especially for railways.
Without enough corn, farmers like the Lopes family can’t feed their animals the right mix of food, which they said can hurt production.
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“Freight railroads are aware of the service challenges affecting customers,” Greener said in a statement.
With delayed production, some farmers worry that prices for food in stores could climb even higher. The price of food is already up 10.1% in the United States compared to this time last year, according to the Consumer Price Index.
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“It’s definitely not a short-term issue we’re facing, it has the potential of being a long-term challenge,” Lopes Dairy Farm Operations Team Leader Tony Lopes said.
Farmers have also struggled to keep up with the inflation rates, now paying more for almost everything including feed in the production process.
“Ultimately our cows have to eat, regardless of if the price of feed is extremely high or extremely low,” Tony Lopes added.
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Greener said the supply chain should improve, though, it’s unclear when. “The industry is confident in its plans to normalize the number of employees to a level consistent with demand. Over time, this should improve service to the betterment of rail customers and the economy,” he said.
“We’re really in a position where we have to weather the storm, absorb those challenges without the ability to be flexible and navigate our way out of it,” Tony Lopes said.