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John Deere strike adds to Iowa farmers’ worries about getting parts, equipment into 2022

John Deere strike adds to Iowa farmers' worries about getting parts, equipment into 2022

INTERNET MARKETING NEWS

John Deere strike adds to Iowa farmers’ worries about getting parts, equipment into 2022

Video: John Deere workers represented by the UAW union strike in AnkenyUnited Auto Workers picket outside of John Deere Des Moines Works on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Ankeny, Iowa.Kelsey Kremer, Des Moines RegisterA strike at a dozen John Deere plants across the country comes as Iowa farmers are already struggling to get parts to repair breakdowns that have temporarily stranded equipment in fields across the state.”If this gets sorted out in a couple of days, great,” said Brian Jones, who farms in central Iowa. “But if it drags out for weeks, you start to get a little concerned about things.”Lance Lillibridge, who farms in eastern Iowa near Cedar Rapids, said he worries about not having parts should his John Deere combine break down. “We have a lot of big equipment out here that we’re using to bring in a harvest, and if a part breaks down that we can’t get, we’re done,” said Lillibridge, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association board.About 10,000 United Auto Workers members have walked out of manufacturing plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kanas, and another 100 workers are striking at parts facilities in Colorado and Georgia. More than 6,000 work in Deere’s Iowa plants in Ankeny, Waterloo, Dubuque, Davenport and Ottumwa.The Moline, Illinois, company manufactures farm equipment —  tractors, combines and sprayers — as well as forestry and mining equipment.More: ‘The time has come’: Striking Deere employees assemble on the picket linesThe strike “definitely is not going help John Deere. But there were issues before the strike and not only with John Deere,” said Tim Bardole, a corn and soybean farmer near Rippey in central Iowa.Iowa corn and soybean growers are driving miles for replacement parts and relying on “loaners” from dealers when parts aren’t available, to bring in what could be some of the highest-yielding crops in the state’s history.Bardole said his Case IH dealer pulled a part from a new soybean head to repair his broken equipment. He hears similar stories from neighbors and friends, regardless of whether their iron, like his, is red, or John Deere green.MORE: Iowa farmers get big break with good harvest, high prices. But will their luck hold?”Dealers definitely understand the rush, the pressure farmers are under to get their crop out of the fields,” said Bardole, harvesting soybeans Thursday.Iowa farmers have combined about a third of the state’s 12.5 million corn acres and nearly 60% of its 10 million soybean acres, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.”But there are limits to what they can do,” said Bardole, an Iowa Soybean Association board member. “You can only steal a part once and it’s gone.”The crew at Van Wall Equipment, a large Deere dealership in central Iowa, is scavenging parts from used and salvaged equipment, said Don Van Houweling, president of the company, which has 33 locations in Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska, as well as Iowa.More: Deere workers are on strike. Here’s why and what led to the UAW’s contract rejection”We’ve got some places to go for parts that we normally wouldn’t use,” said Van Houweling, adding that the company also repairs and makes parts in its fabrication shop in the northeast Iowa town of Greene. “It’s our job to keep everybody running.”Houweling said the machinery parts shortage crosses several manufacturing sectors, from cars and trucks to motorcycles and combines. “Every manufacturer is challenged because of the supply-chain disruptions,” he said.For example, hundreds of Case IH tractors sit outside a Nebraska plant, waiting for parts before they can be shipped to dealers. Likewise, thousands of new cars and trucks are awaiting difficult-to-source semiconductor chips before they can be shipped to dealers.Lillibridge, the eastern Iowa farmer, said he’s been waiting for a part for his broken-down Deere Gator, a utility vehicle that he typically uses to check on his cattle, since July. He’s still unsure when he will get the part.”We’re about ready to buy a horse,” he joked. “It would be more reliable.”The Deere strike is complicating farmers’ equipment decisions for next year, too.Lillibridge said he’s weighing whether to buy a tractor or a sprayer next year. But he’s not sure how whether the equipment will be available.He doesn’t blame his Deere dealer. The supply-chain disruptions have only gotten more pronounced since 2020, when the global pandemic hit. “It’s causing problems everywhere,” he said.More: U.S. Sen Chuck Grassley says he didn’t know about Deere strike, isn’t familiar with the issuesJones, who farms with his father and brother-in-law in Adair County, said he’s concerned about delivery of a John Deere planter that’s slated to be manufactured in February, just two months before planting typically starts.The family already has traded in their old planter. “It’s been sold,” said Jones, adding that Deere equipment ordered in the spring is typically delivered by year’s end. “We don’t have a planter for next year.”More: Here’s the proposed contract that UAW workers at Deere rejected before going on strikeJones said he imagines his family’s equipment dealer will supply them a loaner if their planter is delayed. He’s heard that’s what happened this fall, when some combine deliveries came after the harvest started.Jones said he and his family are holding off a decision about replacing their combine until they have a clearer picture about the length of strike. The family, which custom-harvests wheat in western states, needs the combine in June, earlier than most Iowa farmers.”I think Deere will iron this out,” Jones said. “They know the importance of getting people back to work.”The strike comes as demand for farm equipment is strong. U.S. row-crop tractor sales were up 26% from January to September compared to the same period last year, an  Association of Equipment Manufacturers report shows. Combine sales climbed 17%.It’s showing up in Deere’s earnings. In August, the company reported revenues of $4.7 billion in the first nine months of its fiscal year, already more than its record full-year earnings of $3.5 billion in 2013.Van Houweling said he expects demand for used and new equipment will remain strong this fall, given good corn and soybean prices and strong yields.Iowa farmers are expected to average 61 bushels of soybeans per acre, the highest ever, and 201 bushels per acre of corn this fall, the third-largest yield in agriculture department records.”Corn and soybeans are very profitable right now, and when farmers do well, they typically try to upgrade their equipment,” Van Houweling said. “So manufacturers will be very challenged.”Bardole said Deere risks farmers switching to other manufacturers if tractors, combines and planters aren’t available when they need them.”Farmers are going to buy what they need to get the job done,” he said.Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at deller@registermedia.com or 515-284-8457. 


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