by | Oct 24, 2022

Recently I pulled up at a four-way stop and spotted a 5-gallon bucket in the middle of the road. I couldn’t help it. I stopped the truck and picked it up. I know every farmer reading this can relate. You just don’t pass up a good bucket.

I wish I could count the number of times Dad sent one of us kids into the weeds for some stray treasure that fell off the back of someone’s truck. To this day I can’t pass up a nice piece of two-by-four, a hunk of chain or the lid off a cooler that could be the one I lost after a Mizzou game.

Dad taught us that you never can tell when you might need something like that two-by-four and a bucket is always handy. Growing up on a farm in Dade County, Dad lived in a time when you couldn’t always afford to buy new things. Having a ready supply of scrap angle iron or not-too-rusty bolts often meant the difference between getting the hay in the barn or having to wait until the mud dried.

This great country we live in has always been a land of plenty. If you don’t believe me, pull out some old photos of your family gathered around the Thanksgiving table to see the abundance we have been fortunate enough to have.

Sadly, those days of plenty seem to be slipping into the days my dad experienced where you might not find what you need even if you have the money to pay for it. I haven’t seen the figures yet, but my friend Garrett Hawkins over at Missouri Farm Bureau tracks these things. Every year they show the cost of that Thanksgiving feast is going up. I’ve even heard concerns that folks can’t find a turkey to roast. 

Your local electric co-op is experiencing the same thing. I heard Lynn Thompson, manager of Consolidated Electric Cooperative, speak at a meeting recently. He told us that one of the most common items used by electric co-ops — ordinary bolts that go inside meter bases — are made just across the street from the co-op in Mexico, Missouri. Yet when the co-op ran low on these they were told it would be a long wait thanks to shortages of raw materials. When our co-ops do find the poles, wires, transformers, bolts or whatever they need to keep your lights on, chances are the cost of them has doubled.

Like any good farmer, co-ops are doing exactly what my dad did. They are scrounging their warehouses to make sure nothing goes to waste, even reusing transformers from lines that were taken out of service. 

These supply chain issues are annoying for everyone, but the cooperative way is helping. Missouri’s electric co-ops are participating in a “spare parts” forum that lets a co-op facing a shortage of materials connect with someone who has a surplus. 

This “Cooperation Among Cooperatives” is one of the seven principles your cooperative operates under. It’s allowing us to keep up with the demand for new services while ensuring your electricity stays on. 

If you see me in the ditch somewhere along the road, don’t worry. My truck hasn’t broken down, but feel free to stop if you need a new bucket.

Caleb is the executive vice president and CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Boone Electric Cooperative.

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