As I write this, I am subconsciously thinking about the kitchy birthday present I need to order for my wife far enough in advance to arrive by the end of March. An ocean of time, right? Especially if I embrace the Amazon Prime solves-all mentality. 

But even in the ‘I-expect-my-Ryan-Gosling-6-pack-of-movies-at-my-doorstep-seconds-after-I-purchase-it’ world we live in, it’s easy to forget that some things still take longer than expected, whether we like it or not. 

As the calendar closes in on spring planting in many areas, anxiety is building among some customers, dealers and even manufacturers as to the timely delivery of parts and technology to be installed, tested and ready to take to the field. Ongoing shortages and delays in parts availability and shipping are adding another layer of pressure this time of year

“It’s looking like dealers, myself included, will be in a very tight spot with spring coming quickly and products being back ordered until the very last second,” says Pete Youngblut, owner of Youngblut Ag in Dysart, Iowa. 

Turnaround time from ordering to delivery has increased from days to months in some cases, forcing dealers into some difficult, but necessary, conversations with customers. Talking with a few dealers since the start of March, they’ve noted several uncomfortable calls with farmers to inform them that they shouldn’t expect critical planter parts to arrive until June. 

“I am already to the point where there may not be many new orders between now and spring as the response from vendors is that they are backordered until April already,” Youngblut says. “That will most likely kill a lot of sales that are normally made in the last half of February and early March.”

As disruptive as the pandemic has been on supply and demand, there is a silver lining. Rising commodity prices are a positive sign that farmers will have an appetite and financial flexibility to take advantage of attractive early-order programs offered this summer.

“Dealers really have a real opportunity to convince customers that before they put the planter away for the season this year, get that part or attachment added first, especially after the experience many of us have had this year,” says Tim Norris, who farms about 1,000 acres near Mount Vernon, Ohio, and also co-owns Box Concepts Consulting. 

Norris says it took about 2 months to get replacement hubs and bearings this spring for his Kinze 12/23 planter — parts which typically would take days to order and receive in a typical year. 

As the former CEO of Ag Info Tech, 2015 Most Valuable Dealership, Norris says dealers have good leverage for selling customers on the value of pre-ordering planter parts and technology this year. “One part can hold up planting and the reality is that there is a chain-reaction from the grower all the way up to the manufacturer which costs everyone time and money.”

Some dealers have already placed orders to increase inventory into the summer and fall, in response to increased demand and the expectation that customers will be in a buying mood after spring. 

Youngblut expects some manufacturers to offer discounts earlier than usual to encourage dealers to increase inventory in anticipation of higher customer demand. While he has seen a recent increase in sales, Youngblut is cautiously optimistic and anticipates a change in the current parts purchasing model between dealers and manufacturers.  

“The hard part with this is that we then bare the cost of carrying those goods on the shelf while the vendor gets paid,” he says. “I think we are looking at a bit of a shift in how things operate in the ag business space and that the paperwork side will be much faster and product will be a bit slower as opposed to the work first, pay later approach that we are all accustom to.”