NGFA outlines supply chain issues in comments to USDA  

By Max Fisher, Vice President of Economics and Government Relations

Labor availability is the largest supply chain constraint facing the grain and feed industry, NGFA noted in comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on June 21. 

The comments, submitted in response to USDA’s request for input on assessing supply chains for the production of agricultural commodities and food products, commend USDA for seeking ways to help ensure U.S. economic prosperity and national security as well as for supporting U.S. agriculture’s adoption of climate-smart practices. 

NGFA noted that many of its members are unable to fill open positions throughout manufacturing, warehousing, and transportation. These shortages are directly impacting NGFA members’ ability to meet consumer demands. 

“Not only does a labor shortage make it difficult to keep pace with open positions, but it also makes it more challenging to add shifts to keep pace with increasing demand for agricultural products,” the comments noted. “The lack of access to labor threatens operations and supply chain resiliency and leads to lost productivity and higher prices for food and agricultural products along the supply chain.”

Further, NGFA recommended USDA’s agencies collaborate on their climate change and supply chain polices due to their inherent linkage to the production of raw agricultural commodities – the first step in the food and agricultural supply chain and most likely step to be impacted by climate change policies. In recent comments to USDA’s Office of Chief Economist on climate change, NGFA argued against policies that idle non-targeted cropland and reduce U.S. agricultural output and market share, hurt rural economies and harm the ability of disadvantaged, small and/or beginning farmers to access farmland.

As an alternative to cropland idling climate change polices, NGFA urged USDA to prioritize federal resources toward working land programs to achieve large environmental and economic benefits by incentivizing broader adoption of best management farming and ranching practices across potentially hundreds of millions of our nation’s best acres for food production.  

The ability for the U.S. food and agricultural sector to continue as the world’s largest hinges on the availability of cropland to produce raw agricultural commodities, NGFA noted. The Association has urged USDA to focus considerable attention on ensuring U.S. agricultural producers and agribusinesses can implement climate-smart practices and enhance income, such as through working land programs, without idling land or distorting planting and marketing decisions.

NGFA also recommended USDA and its federal partners take steps to reduce the United States’ reliance on foreign suppliers for critical food and feed ingredients, provide support to help counter cybersecurity attacks, address shortcomings in the regulatory process that lead to unnecessary costs and inefficiencies for supply chain participants, enable better broadband connectivity, and promote policies to address the labor shortage.

NGFA said it supports strengthening U.S. freight transportation policy and infrastructure to help ensure there are many efficient ways for agricultural commodities and products to flow throughout the food and agricultural supply chain.  NGFA said it believes the U.S. freight transportation system can be strengthened through the following ways: 

1. Increase federal investment to modernize U.S. inland waterways locks and dams – particularly those on the UMR-IR System – and fully utilizing the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for its intended purpose of dredging U.S. ports and harbors.

2. Foster increased competition among freight railroads and other transportation modes and require railroad carriers to provide shippers and receivers with increased access to railroad service data to enable optimized supply chain operations.

3. Increase motor carrier capacity through regulatory reform and legislative change.

Lastly, NGFA noted that its members use roads, rivers, railways, and ports to move grain and oilseeds throughout the country. “The inability to access one or more of these modes at any given time puts pressure on the entire supply chain and makes American agriculture less
competitive,” NGFA said. “The U.S. transportation infrastructure system is only as strong as its weakest link, and we urge congress and the administration to execute and implement these
recommendations.”