Josh Sosland
Even before the calendar changed to the new year, concerns about the adequacy of labor stood squarely atop the list of concerns identified by the baking industry as urgently requiring attention. The aging of the workforce and perceptions that skilled baking jobs were not perceived as attractive by the up-and-coming workforce have prompted the American Bakers Association to direct considerable resources to fully understanding the problem as well as steps that will be needed to address it over the long term.

To the degree labor issues were a concern in 2017, developments in the new year have brought the problems into heightened focus. New Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules have strained already inadequate trailer van fleet availability, compounding a stressful logistical environment for millers and bakers. Immigration negotiations within Congress and the Trump administration may result in changes that could dramatically impact the future skilled labor pool, including proposals to reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States annually.

Even the new tax law widely hailed as a positive for grain-based foods could spur capital investments that will draw still further on the nation’s skilled labor force. These highly significant new developments underscore the importance of the baking industry efforts to find meaningful solutions for a problem that in 2018 is becoming more difficult, not less.