BOISE, Idaho — Shay Myers is the CEO of Owyhee Produce in Parma, Idaho. The company grows onions asparagus, watermelon, and mint, and they ship to grocery stores throughout the nation, including to Walmart, Albertsons, and Winco.
“In agriculture, we are doing everything we can to reduce volatility problems for our customers,” said Myers. However, the recent supply chain issues have been out of his control.
"What we are seeing at the grocery stores now is we are faltering in a way that we have never faltered before because we have always been able to overcome the obstacles," Myers said.
The reason for the empty spaces on some grocery store shelves, Myers said, is due to winter weather conditions, truck driver shortages, and omicron infections, slowing down the entire process. Myers said the lack of produce in grocery stores is worse in the midwest and eastern locations.
“For truckers, their overall capacity has been reduced by, I think it would be conservative to say 40%,” Myers said. “Then on top of that, let's add in Omicron and people not going to work because of that. Let’s add also the fact that a lot of the drivers are aging out, they are getting older and there's not a lot of new people going into the industry.”
Currently, Idaho is down five thousand drivers and there are 80,000 positions open throughout the country, according to Idaho Trucking Association. Myers said that if customers are desperate for produce, Owyhee Produce pays for increased shipping rates, but if customers can wait, then the product will too.
“We just have to either spend a lot more to get a truck to either make the deliveries to these locations throughout the nation or we have to wait longer to get a truck to make those deliveries,” Myers said.
As for a solution, Myers said people need to get younger generations into trucking, but in order to do that, the age limit needs to be revisited. Currently, in order to drive a truck interstate, drivers need to be at least 21 years old and Myers believes by that age many of them have already chosen a different career path.
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