The Strongest Link

Published online: Mar 02, 2022 Articles, Fertilizer, Fungicide, Herbicide, Insecticide, New Products Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This article appears in the March 2022 issue of Potato Grower.

There are a lot of things in our modern world that we often simply accept as a matter of fact, without a thought as to how they made their way to us. We could wax on about any number of contemporary niceties, but for the moment, let’s take a page out of How It’s Made’s book and focus on something that has aided mankind (with very little need for technological advancement) for centuries: chains.

As this is a magazine about potatoes and agriculture, we make no claim to being chain manufacturing experts, so we’ll keep this particular analogy short. A quick YouTube search proves enlightening: Though manufactured mostly by robots today, heavy chain is forged in much the same way as it was 150 years ago. Along its journey from thick wire to actual links of chain, steel is heated and cooled to extreme temperatures no fewer than three times to attain the necessary levels of strength and flexibility.

As we’ve seen over the last year or two, taken-for-granted supply chains can experience their own periods of tempering. Where shortcuts have been taken or issues overlooked, it may take more effort to repair broken links than in other places. But where the supply chain has been carefully watched over and planned for, all the twists and kinks and knots in the world can be straightened out and worked through.

The potato industry, of course, has faced plenty of supply chain issues, and not just from the farm to the consumer’s plate. On-farm inputs, particularly chemical products, have seemingly always been more or less easy to come by. Not so in 2022. Any particular product for potatoes (and other crops) has to take a lot of steps from concept to application. Active and inert ingredients need to be acquired and properly formulated. Manufacturing, packaging and transportation each carries its own, often complicated logistics. Trans-Pacific freight costs have risen as availability has fallen, and domestic transport and labor issues have in many instances exacerbated those problems.

Amid all this, however, AMVAC Chemical Corporation, has proven to be a reliable supplier to potato growers across North America.

“AMVAC certainly is not immune to the global supply chain disruption everybody is experiencing,” says Micah Scanga, commercial product manager for potatoes and high-value crops at AMVAC. “However, the company has five U.S. manufacturing sites. Because of that, we feel pretty good about being in a position to deliver those critical inputs to distributors and, in turn, retailers and growers at the right time.”

AMVAC’s focus on U.S.-based manufacturing has allowed the company to more intentionally exercise control over the cost, quality and reliability of its products. Recently expanded manufacturing capacity and capability have increased the range of its crop protection products, as well as the ability to get those products onto farms. AMVAC has a respected potato portfolio—including VAPAM and K-PAM soil fumigants, SmartBlock sprout inhibitor, and a growing Green Solutions portfolio of biological products—and the company feels a major part of that respect is a trust from growers that they can obtain those products. With sites in Los Angeles; Axis, Alabama; Hannibal, Missouri; Clackamas, Oregon; and Marsing, Idaho, AMVAC products never have to travel too far to reach American producers.

“As an industry, from chemical manufacturers to growers, what do face in a normal year?” says Scanga. “Changes in weather, temperatures, water issues. Supply problems aren’t always at the top of the list of producer concerns. Thankfully, with these domestic manufacturing sites, AMVAC has the ability to procure raw materials and produce these products for potato customers most of the time without significant delay.”

Scanga notes that growers seem to be more acutely aware of potential supply pitfalls as well and are planning further ahead. As they communicate their plans and expected needs to chemical retailers and manufacturers, those needs have been more capably met.

“Nobody knows a particular farm like the grower who farms it,” says Scanga. “Our customers and growers are forecasting more into the future than they traditionally have, and we are in constant contact with them asking how we can be more effective at delivering product to the retailer and farmer when they need it. That’s something that’s always been important to AMVAC, but there’s an even more heightened awareness of that dynamic now.”

That ears-pricked, head-on-a-swivel awareness is what gives Scanga full confidence in the potato industry’s ability to navigate a supply chain that may at the moment be snagged and tangled, but remains unbroken.

“I’ve always been impressed with the American agricultural production system,” he says. “Potato growers are right there at the top in terms of figuring out how and where new technologies best fit, and, ultimately, finding solutions to problems.”