After years of natural stressors, such as droughts and floods and a global pandemic over the course of nearly two years, the ag industry has been hit hard.
However, help is on the way for producers in North Dakota.
Across the country, there is a severe shortage of truck drivers. Going into the holiday season, many associate the impacts of the shortage with retailers, but it’s also heavily affecting the ag industry — which encompasses 25 percent of the state’s total workforce.
“When somebody’s ordering 20 pairs of shoes from Amazon, truck space gets taken up, truck drivers get pulled. They’re no longer delivering the goods and services that are needed. Not wanted, but needed,” said Doug Goehring, North Dakota Department of Agriculture commissioner.
Other issues the industry has been facing include supply shortages, with some producers unable to receive parts they may need to do their job.
“And there’s been times where a part is 250 miles away, and we were told it would take three days to get it here. We just got in the vehicle and went and got it,” said Goehring.
Pair that with the historic drought that hit the state this summer.
However, with the help of a $500,000 grant awarded to the Department of Ag, the industry can breathe a slight sigh of relief.
The grant comes from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.
The grant will include outreach services, support groups and train the trainer workshops — one of them in Oliver County.
“Many people even within our profession walk into the office, and wonder ‘OK now what? And what’s my job?’ And I think with the mentoring program, we do have that opportunity to work one-on-one to get people to get more comfortable with that new position,” said Rick Schmidt, Oliver County NDSU Extension agent.
Schmidt said a key point in the program is to teach students how to think and not what to think.
The Department of Ag received notice about the grant several months ago but didn’t receive the authority to move forward with it until earlier this month.
The plans are now set to move forward and benefit those who aim to put fresh food on our dinner table.
Schmidt says that there is more turnover in the ag extension offices now than in years past, but ensuring new employees are comfortable in their environment will help retention rates within the industry.