Is it time to change North American agricultural equipment batches?


Messick general manager Jay Gainer made a prediction last year.

“Early last year, I said we’d be done with this mess by the end of 2021,” he recently told Tom Venesky of Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Farming. “Now I’m saying it won’t happen until the end of 2022. Maybe.”

Gainer’s sentiments were echoed by other vendors at the 2022 Keystone Farm Show: New equipment will be hard to come by, prices will rise and demand will remain strong.

Maybe it’s time for North American equipment dealers, Gainer believes.

In Europe, dealers have little inventory sitting on lots. Instead, farmers order new equipment a year in advance, and the model has advantages for dealers and manufacturers.

“It costs money to have all this equipment sitting on a lot, so ordering a year in advance is a good saving for manufacturers,” Gainer said. “But that’s not necessarily what farmers want, because they want to buy when they’re ready.”

Messick’s, in business since 1952, offers over 250 brands of equipment in the agriculture, construction, lawn and garden industries, including Case IH, New Holland, Miller Pro, Kubota, Woods, Apache, Newton Crouch, Cub Cadet and Stihl. It has five locations in southeastern Pennsylvania.

But as shortages continue to loom, farmers may have no choice but to embrace this European model.

Michael Trazzera, sales support specialist at Hoober Inc., said several tractors and combines slated for production in 2023 have already sold out and pre-orders for other machines remain in place.

To make matters worse, he added, the rush to get machines to dealer lots as quickly as possible has overbooked carriers. As a result, manufacturers sometimes have to use different shipping companies and machines are damaged during transport.

Carl Zimmerman of Zimmerman Farm Service Inc. said pre-orders for tractors and skid steer loaders are higher than ever, but he doesn’t fully commit to the European method.

“People don’t want to wait a year for a new tractor,” Zimmerman said.

Rather than asking customers to pre-order, Zimmerman said his company is pre-ordering hardware — items he thinks are in demand — to keep his sales batch full.

He admits it’s a risky move, but there aren’t many choices.

Parts, tillage components and fencing supplies are also in short supply heading into 2022, Keystone Farm Show suppliers reported.

Austin Schoth, a salesperson at Shoup Manufacturing, said many people have stopped by his booth looking for tillage parts, and he gives them all the same advice.

“If you know you’re going to need, or even might need parts, buy them early,” Schoth said. “Everything steel is a major problem and everything is behind schedule at the moment. A lot of factories that closed during the pandemic still haven’t kept up with demand.”

If supply is scarce and prices are rising, what continues to fuel demand?

Jesse Rohrer, territory manager for Kuhn North America, said it was about strong commodity prices and a positive outlook for milk futures. But there is another factor at play.

“People see the shortages and they’re afraid that if something breaks they won’t be able to replace it right away, so they buy it now,” Rohrer said.

Still, Zimmerman sees reason for hope for 2022 and beyond when it comes to the agricultural machinery market.

If the federal government no longer issues COVID-related stimulus payments, that will help stabilize demand, he said. Additionally, many equipment manufacturers have already increased their workforce and production, so if demand declines, they will be in a good position to catch up quickly.

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