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Farmers, manufacturers adapt to supply, demand challenges
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Farmers, manufacturers adapt to supply, demand challenges

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. – Increased equipment demand, supply chain challenges, and soaring steel costs have affected the ability of farm equipment manufacturers and dealers to supply equipment and parts to farmers.

“We are seeing a spike in demand to update farm equipment now that commodity prices are getting stronger and there is more positivity out there,” said Bruce Johnson, director of sales and marketing at Summers Manufacturing, Inc.

Summers Manufacturing is an all employee-owned farm equipment manufacturer based in Devils Lake, N.D., with an assembly plant/parts and service facility in Aberdeen, S.D.

At the same time that demand has increased, farm equipment manufacturers have been seeing disruptions along the supply chain and shipping issues.

Manufacturers are short on the products needed to make equipment, and product inventory is low as the country slowly recovers from COVID-19.

“As demand is increasing, a lot of the supply chain has gotten distracted over the past few years. It has been hard to get materials,” Johnson said.

To help handle those challenges, Summers Manufacturing has launched an advanced order program for farmers who are looking to update their tillage equipment and other products the company manufactures.

Summers Manufacturing is setting the cost of the equipment at the current price, with delivery in spring 2022. Incentives are offered for advanced orders and all of their products carry warranties.

“We understand some farmers want to wait and see if they are going to get rain this spring, but we have many producers wanting to get equipment on order to make sure they get it for next spring,” he said.

Johnson explained why there is so much demand now to update farm equipment.

During the downturn in agriculture starting around 2014, farmers suffered from low commodity prices and many chose not to invest in certain equipment.

“One of the things we faced at Summers Manufacturing during the tough years is that a lot of our competition on some of the products we make was coming in from outside the country,” he said. “In some cases, those foreign companies were using steel from Asia to make equipment, bringing it in and avoiding tariffs. When money was tight in the ag downturn, farmers would look at it and take the cheaper alternative.”

American steel, needed in quality farm equipment and parts, has been in short supply as steel prices surge – in some cases to nearly triple what they were before the pandemic.

Those higher prices have driven up costs for farmers and tightened profits for manufacturers.

Johnson said Summers Manufacturing made the decision not to cheapen their products during the downturn.

“We had some soul-searching moments in those years where we looked at what was going on and asked ourselves, ‘Do we just cheapen it up?’ But we felt that wasn’t what the Summers brand stood for,” he said.

Instead, they held focus groups and listened to farmers, finding out exactly what farmers needed and wanted in their farm equipment.

“By listening to farmers and choosing to double down on quality and not cheapen up the product, it not only got us through the downturn, but it put us in a stronger position when the ag economy improved,” Johnson said.

The company also made the decision to offer industry-leading warranties on their tillage equipment and land rollers.

“One of the things that’s pretty important to farmers is managing their risk on equipment. These are significant investments for farmers, so we wanted to offer warranties,” he said. “We figured when farmers update, they would want to update to a higher quality product with a warranty, so that is the way we went.”

As a result of the focus groups, Summers designed and came out with an innovative tillage tool that worked like variable rate fertilizer works in the field.

“We had a bunch of farmer focus groups and sat down and talked to them about what they liked about the tillage tools they were using, what they didn’t like,” Johnson said. “One of the big things farmers said was they wanted the ability to control the amount of tillage.”

Summers came out with the (Variable Rate Tillage) VRT Renegade. Farmers can adjust the way the ground is tilled on the go from the tractor cab on their iPad, depending on the type of soil and conditions in the field.

“We created the term ‘Variable Rate Tillage,’ which allows farmers to not turn over as much soil if they don’t need to, or to do more tillage if the soil requires it,” Johnson said. They also have vertical tillage tools, which uses straight-tracking coulter blades that slice through the soil.

Johnson said farms used to have all of their fields located in basically one area. But as farmlands were rented out or bought up, those who wanted to expand have had to find land that is further away from farm headquarters.

“There are drastically different types of conditions in each location with the soil in one field different than the other fields, and each area receives a different amount of moisture benefit from a variable rate of tillage,” he added.

Some no-till farmers were looking for a way to incorporate heavy residue because of the difficulty they had planting into it.

“One of the big things that we found is that with some of the hybrids that farmers have been growing in recent years, they have been left with a lot of tough residue,” Johnson said. “Farmers needed to start instituting some form of residue management.”

He said their variety of tillage tools allows farmers to do more of a minimum-till to handle heavy residue and other soil conditions.

Summers Manufacturing has several different tillage tools that fit every field situation.

There are land rollers, sprayers, harrows, coulters, coil packers and other products.

In 2020, Summers introduced the Supercoulter Samurai, which is an evolution from its vertical tillage tool, the Summers Supercoulter.

“It allows vertical tillage with just a bit more soil movement to incorporate fertilizer or put a little dirt on the residue,” Johnson said.

Summing up, Johnson pointed out that the traditional way producers have been buying equipment has not worked out this spring with the supply chain tie-ups, high steel costs, and other issues that mushroomed throughout the pandemic.

With their advanced order program for spring 2022, Summers said the company would be able to plan better and better serve the growing demand for equipment.

“We want to be able to grow and serve as many of those customers as we can with farm equipment, whether large or small,” Johnson said. “We’ve taken a lot of pride in the equipment we build and I feel like we build it a little heavier and a little tougher than most. And we back it up really well with our service team.”

For more on Summers Manufacturing, Inc., view www.summersmanufacturing.com.

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