Picture your ideal road trip. For me, the snack of choice is baby carrots. The weather is a mix of sun and clouds. My music of choice is, unfortunately, showtunes.
When a trip is that perfect, the destination almost doesn’t matter. But our upcoming road trip is to the first in-person North American Manure Expo since 2019 – an extra-sweet trip. For some of us on the team (like me), this is our first in-person Expo, so the excitement is that much more palpable and the questions are plentiful: what will the tours be like? Who will I finally get to meet in-person after two years of Zooming? Which demos will leave us dirtiest? How long will it take before my colleagues become sick of the Come From Away soundtrack?
It’s an exciting time in ag; it’s the first full summer free of significant COVID restrictions and most events have been able to go ahead as scheduled. And besides the return to live events, there’s reason to feel positive if you’re in the manure business. Headlines around the world tell the story of a sunny outlook for manure – given rising fertilizer prices, manure has been identified as a potentially hot product for this growing season. And speaking of growing, many North American growers are anticipating higher demand for certain products – for example, Canadian commodities have been identified by some firms as a potential area for growth, given the current conflict in Eastern Europe.
But that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing all summer long. With inflation at a 40-year high and energy costs on the rise, not to mention challenges caused by severe weather, those doing the planting have struggled with costs this year
And manure application businesses have to work extra-hard to meet the challenges of high demand – and, as we recently discussed, some are having trouble retaining employees. Steve Gloor, past president of OPACA, said talent retention in the industry has always been difficult, but it’s accelerated since 2020. “Some walk away,” he told one of our reporters. “People just get tired of the long, long hours.”
Manure application is rewarding for the applicator and the grower. But there are times when it will be harder than others.
On one hand, we’ve emerged from the darkest days of the pandemic ready to shake hands and enjoy each other’s company over a drink again. And increasing demand for manure is something to celebrate. On the other hand, growers and applicators now face a whole new set of economic and environemntal challenges, while still trying to recover from the last two years.
I know that when I walk the grounds at the Expo, I will hear many excited and happy conversations. I know I will also hear a lot of concerns.
It’s important to be realistic. This year will bring both challenges and rewards. Nothing will ever be perfect – even a good, old-fashioned road trip. That doesn’t mean the trip’s not worth taking.•