Why Ag Retailers Are Laboring Over Future Labor

As I write this column, I am in the midst of compiling information for our annual CropLife 100 report. This in-depth dive into what’s going on with the nation’s top ag retailers is always a great way to find out where the industry has been during the current year and get hints as to how things will play out in the year ahead.

Based upon the early data from the 2022 survey, it seems as if labor issues will once again rise to the top of the list among chief concerns for ag retailers going into 2023, and beyond. At present, approximately six in 10 respondents has listed labor as the No. 1 issue “keeping them up at night,” with last year’s main issue, supply chain disruptions, running a distant second.

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Actually, this isn’t that much of a surprise. In fact, at the recent “The New Generation of Agriculture” webinar hosted by CropLife magazine in early October, all of the participants brought up labor issues as a key concern.

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“When it comes to finding workers, we will not be able to do things the way we’ve been doing them,” observed Ben Sauder, Vice President of Agronomy for Frenchman Valley Coop, Imperial, NE. “For example, our company has been looking for a sprayer applicator for one year now, and we haven’t had any applicants.”

Sauder continued that he would miss the absence of Baby Boomers as this portion of the workforce heads into their retirement years. “I appreciate Baby Boomers,” he said. “They will work a 16-hour day and life was great in their minds. The values of the next generation are a lot different.”

He added that to recruit new workers to their businesses, ag retailers will need to tailor their work requirements and balance the “work/life” desires of this next generation of employees.

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“The first thing we will have to do is reflect on our qualities as leaders in the industry and re-evaluate how the work gets done,” said Sauder. “We will also have to figure out how to get more work done with less people.”

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Avatar for Aaron Esping Aaron Esping says:

“I appreciate Baby Boomers,” he said. “They will work a 16-hour day and life was great in their minds.”
That attitude is exactly why we struggle with turnover. I for one want to see my kids play sports and go to their concerts and be involved at school. Not dedicate my entire life to 16-hour days at work.

Avatar for Cale Sturges Cale Sturges says:

To be fair…..Not every day is a 16 hour day at the retailer level. At my location anyhow…..a window in the spring and a window in the fall. Fall window much shorter than the spring. I am between the boomers and the current generation. Have a family with many activities going on. Yes, I have missed a few activities, but just a few. Do my best to make sure my guys go to their family activities. Decent paying jobs in a pretty stable field of work, and I too can’t even get anyone to apply. Can’t believe there are that many jobs out there working less than 8 hours a day and/or working from home that pay wages to live on. Maybe my head is in the sand…..

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