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Palm Beach County farmers face equipment shortages

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 3:56 PM EDT
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The supply chain crisis is having a ripple effect across the country that is impacting farmers and growers.

In the fertile land of western Palm Beach County, many materials, parts and supplies are on backorder.

At the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative in Belle Glade, the focus right now is repairing and reconfiguring the sugar mill. Harvest season kicks off in just two weeks.

"It's just been very difficult this year," said David Goodlett, assistant to the president at the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative.

David Goodlett speaks about the problems they have encountered as a result of the supply chain...
David Goodlett speaks about the problems they have encountered as a result of the supply chain issues.

Repair season is crucial to keep the mill running at an efficient speed. But the broken supply chain is a problem many area farmers haven't been able to fix.

"Some things are very tight. Others we've been warned that especially tires could get short following the first of the year," Goodlett said.

Goodlett said the mill is waiting on a large order of copper tubing.

Copper tubing like this is a critical component of processing sugar cane.
Copper tubing like this is a critical component of processing sugar cane.

But thousands of new tubes to repair old equipment still haven't arrived, causing concern and potentially big impacts on the mill's bottom line.

"If we don't have the copper tubes to put into the clarifiers, then we have to throttle back on the mill, which expands the season ... additional days, which adds a tremendous cost," Goodlett said.

And about 20 minutes away from the mill, there are other issues impacting farmers.

"Labor is short, materials are short and expenses are up," Eric Hopkins, the senior vice president of Hundley Farms.

Eric Hopkins says parts to fix equipment are on back order.
Eric Hopkins says parts to fix equipment are on back order.

Hundley Farms is also contending with a challenging combination.

Stalks of sugar cane are getting ready to be cut down, but parts to fix equipment are on backorder, and packaging and pallets are hard to come by.

"We're trying to be profitable out here, and the higher all of our costs of inputs goes, the more we have to charge the consumer, and everybody is going to feel this pinch," Hopkins said.

It is a major disruption, but farming is rooted in faith. Now, the hope is the supply issues will improve.

"[We are] the most optimistic people you've ever seen ... farmers...gotta be," Goodlett said.

Palm Beach County sugar cane
Palm Beach County sugar cane

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