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Farmers and John Deere suppliers worry about strike's impact

Members of the United Auto Workers strike outside of the John Deere Engine Works plant on Ridgeway Avenue in Waterloo, Iowa, on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. About 10,000 UAW workers have gone on strike against John Deere since Thursday at plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas.(Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register via AP)

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Farmers and Deere & Co. suppliers are worried about what the strike at the tractor maker’s factories will mean for their livelihoods.

More than 10,000 Deere employees went on strike last week at 14 Deere factories in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia after the United Auto Workers union rejected a contract offer. The longer the strike continues, the greater the impact will be on the communities around the plants.

“If this gets sorted out in a couple of days, great,” Brian Jones, who farms in central Iowa, told the Des Moines Register. “But if it drags out for weeks, you start to get a little concerned about things.”

Lance Lillibridge, who farms in eastern Iowa near Cedar Rapids, said he worries about not having parts should his John Deere combine break down.

“We have a lot of big equipment out here that we’re using to bring in a harvest, and if a part breaks down that we can’t get, we’re done,” said Lillibridge, who is also president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association board.

Burk “Skeet” Miehe of American Pattern & CNC Works in Cedar Falls, Iowa, said his business was doing OK initially because it worked ahead to meet orders from Deere.

“If it does go longer, it could affect us,” Miehe told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

Casting Cleaning Inc. in Cedar Falls, which does chipping and grinding work of foundry castings for John Deere, was closed Friday because of lack of work, but company President Shannon Closson said it’s expected to reopen Monday.

“Long term, (the strike) would be very detrimental to our business. Short term, we’ll be able to power though and get through it,” Closson said.

At John Deere equipment dealer Sloan Implement in Fulton, Illinois, store manager Eric Maloney said the business is doing the best it can to manage through the strike, as well as supply chain problems related to the coronavirus pandemic. The dealer has been relying more than usual on repairing parts instead of replacing them.

“We’re going to just keep right on forging ahead as best we can,” Maloney said.