Supply chain troubles are skimming profits from Iowa dairy farmers

AMES — Shipping containers are in high demand and short supply as continued supply chain shortages pose a unique challenge for Iowa’s dairy industry.

Chad Hart, an agricultural economist for Iowa State University, says exporting dairy products overseas was already tricky, and it’s worse right now.  “They often tend to have a fairly short shelf life, meaning, we can’t wait for months to get a shipping container in order to ship a container full of yogurt,” Hart says. “You need to move that in days.”

Farmers on the local level have their own headaches. Doug Stensland, a dairy farmer in northwest Iowa, says he’s in the habit of ordering inventory way ahead of time. That’s because he can’t be certain the semi-trucks full of empty milk jugs will arrive at his Lyon County farm on time. That, combined with the rising cost of feed additives and labor, makes business hard right now. “It’s cut into profits there’s no doubt about it, it’s just a matter of how far we can be able to grab that back,” Stensland says. “Our sales are tough anyway. Right now, it’s kind of a hard balancing act.”

For many Iowa dairy farmers, supplies like dry tubes, ear tags and milk jugs have been harder to purchase. They say the uncertainty of finding both affordable labor and packaging has put a dent in profits.