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Farmers feeling impact of John Deere strike via part shortages

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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JOHNSON CO., Iowa (KCRG) - A Johnson County farmer says they’re already seeing the impacts of John Deere employees walking off the job to join the picket lines.

“We have never had a worry about a parts shortage in my entire life,” Steve Swenka, Johnson County farmer, said.

Swenka has been farming for 30 years and has only ever driven a John Deere tractor.

“We’ve used John Deere tractors for four decades,” Swenka said. “They’ve been reliable, and the parts department has always been easy to work with.”

Swenka said COVID-19 slowed the supply chain when it comes to getting replacement tractor parts. Now, with 10,000 Deere employees on strike, he said more shortages were to come.

Deere employees left their jobs to join the picket line after the United Auto Workers and John Deere couldn’t agree on a contract. The union said it wanted fair wages, health care, and retirement benefits for employees.

“I had friends and colleagues that have been waiting on a header for a combine for a year,” Swenka said. “We now have to rely on what’s already in the pipeline.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, joined the picket in Ankeny on Wednesday. He expressed the importance of finding an agreement sooner rather than later.

“It’s important that farmers have the equipment and parts necessary to do what we do best, grow and raise food,” Vilsack said.

Swenka feared the strike wasn’t going to end anytime soon. He said it could impact grocery prices if parts continued to be increasingly difficult to come by.

“Commodity prices are going to rise because market forecasters are going see the crop still in the ground past the drop-dead date,” Swenka said. “Anytime there’s a hiccup in the weather or delays in the harvest it affects the industry and comes back to the consumer.”

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