By Clint Thompson
Trade and labor used to top the concern list for Florida’s vegetable and specialty crop producers. Not anymore. It is input prices and input availability, says Mike Joyner, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) President.
“As we talk to growers and we’re in the field a lot it is the No. 1 thing they talk about. Yes, trade; yes, labor, but it’s those input costs. It’s fertilizer costs doubling. It’s all of that, and that’s if they can get them,” Joyner said. “The other issue is where they used to have a turnaround time of a few days, it may be months. One of the things if you remember, President Biden in February had an executive order that said we want to hear what changes we can make. We submitted a letter and it included things like making Ag products a priority when they come into the port. Yes, medical supplies should be a priority, but agriculture should, too.”
Pallet prices spiked earlier this year amid supply shortages. So did freight expenses amid driver shortages. Diesel prices continue to rise. What is alarming is the costs do not appear to be improving.
“It’s discouraging because I don’t know that there’s a silver bullet right now. You make port workers work 24 hours a day. That just doesn’t seem to be helping,” Joyner said. “I spoke to a citrus grower the other day. He made 40 phone calls to get a container to ship grapefruit over seas and never got it. He never got the container. In years past, he’d make one phone call and have the container. That’s a little bit of the insight into the impact it’s having.
“We’re coming into our season, planting right now. Then there’s the John Deere strike that’s going on right now. The issue there for us is just parts. Can we get parts? You can maybe hold on buying a new tractor, but it’s the parts issue.”