Over the last year, what has challenged your business the most (weather, availability of supply, food safety, labor, shipping delays due to ELDs, etc.)?
Lisa Lochridge, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
Weather has clearly been an issue for growers this past season. Besides Hurricane Irma, we had a very rainy spring in South Florida, which presented some challenges with disease pressure and timing issues in the ability to get crops harvested.
Workforce availability is a constant challenge and the situation is not getting any better. Use of the H-2A guest worker program is at an all-time high nationally, and Florida is the number-one user of the program. Right now, it’s the only tool in the grower’s toolbox in securing an adequate workforce. But the program is expensive, cumbersome, and badly in need of an overhaul. There’s some proposed legislation in Congress that would do that, but there are concerns over some components of the bill.
Mary Ostlund, Brooks Tropicals LLC
Since we grow produce not only in Southern Florida but around the Caribbean and Latin America, weather was probably the biggest worry in the last year.
Frank Ramos, The Perishable Specialist Inc.
Every day is an opportunity. I don’t like the word challenge. Opportunity to overcome obstacles is how I see it. If I wake up and I’m healthy, bring it on — that obstacle is going down.
Gary Wishnatzki, Wish Farms
I believe the vast majority of growers globally would say the greatest challenge has been labor. Once you understand the reason this has been an increasing problem, you should be very worried about the future of specialty crop production worldwide. We’ve been working on automation because we saw this demographic shift unfolding a number of years ago. Globally, the population is expanding and at the same time aging. We will not have enough young people to do the manual labor going on today. What this means is fruits and vegetables will become much more expensive and less available to consumers if the problem is not solved with mechanization.
Louis Garcia, Crews & Garcia Inc.
Probably pricing, just being competitive on price. It’s hard to mark up anything at all. There are more companies now than there used to be, and there’s a lot of competition out there. We’re just doing the best we can.
Jay Johnson, JGL Produce Company Inc.
The ELD (electronic logging device) mandate was definitely a challenge during December 2017 and January 2018. Slowly but surely farms, shippers, and buyers are starting to adapt.
Luis Campano, John J. Jerue Truck Broker, Inc.
Regulation has probably been our biggest challenge. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently came out with new carrier safety rules, and things have been kind of rocky both here in Florida and nationally. We use mostly independent contract carriers, and it affects them and their ability to transport, which in turn affects us and our ability to have capacity.
This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.