header image Produce Season Transportation Impacts

Produce season can have an impact on your freight, even if you do not ship grains, fruits, or vegetables.

What is produce season? Peak produce shipping season refers to the time period when the largest volume of fruits and vegetables are harvested and subsequently shipped to markets across the US, impacting truck capacity. Seasonal impacts typically hit in late spring and continue through mid-summer – loosely Memorial Day through July 4th.

These peaks hit various regions and states during different points in the year depending on the crop and climate in which it is grown. The largest impacts start in the South and move their way up the US latitudinally – think Florida to Georgia to North Carolina, and Texas to California to Washington to Oregon.

Even if you don’t grow or ship produce, your transportation performance and spend can still be directly impacted.

When crops are moved at high volume, available capacity is diminished as carriers devote a sizable portion of their fleets to produce season transportation. It is a lucrative job for truckers due to its high demand.

This drives up rates and can affect your ability to book shipments in/out of affected and nearby states. Refrigerated transportation is particularly at a premium and can be difficult to secure if not working with a logistics provider with an expansive network. While rates are still likely to spike with produce season transportation, you can get ahead by locking in capacity in advance or adjusting your network accordingly.

Check out this timelapse of DAT’s 2019 capacity maps. During different times of the year, load-to-truck ratio (L/T) gets tighter and looser for specific regions.

produce season transportation gif

For example, when citrus crops are ready in Florida, more carriers are willing to go into the state because they know they can find profitable backhauls from produce. Reversely, during this time, it can be more difficult to find carriers willing to go to Georgia or Alabama where crops are not yet ready to ship and loads less abundant. You may need to pay more to attract capacity.

And if most of your production happens in FL, you may choose to divert sourcing to your secondary facility, say in New Jersey, during heavy produce shipping season months to avoid the heightened costs. Or you might opt to grow your carrier network and maintain capacity with truckers who regularly go in and out of the region.

Disruptions can be short, lasting less than a month. Demand spikes while crop growers hustle to pick and deliver with maximum freshness. Other peaks can extend over 3 months. Knowing these timelines is crucial to supply chain planning.

Of course, annual floods and frosts can alter crop outputs. Some years’ impacts are intensified or diminished based on Mother Nature. But knowing the general breakdown of crop production, state by state, can help your supply chain roll with the punches.

Check out our definitive guide on which crops affect produce season transportation most in each of the lower 48 states.

How Produce Season Transportation Affects Rates and Capacity – State by State

The pinnacle of produce season varies depending on where you are in the country. To simplify when your capacity will be affected, we will provide an agricultural snapshot of the United States and when produce season transportation capacity fluctuations are at their peak.

Know when and where your network will be influenced and work ahead to prevent against possible disruptions.

 

Data Key:

Heaviest peak refers to the months in which capacity will be most affected by agriculture production

Predominant crop refers to the commodity that most affects the transportation market in a given state

Crop data was gathered from the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service and peak season data was obtained from FreightWave’s SONAR Seasonal Capacity Calendar

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

 

Alabama

Heaviest Peak: May-July

Predominant Crop: Corn

The southern state produces a variety of crops. It is most known for cotton and hay production, which does not impact capacity like seasonal produce.

However, Alabama grows a substantial amount of corn, soybeans, and peanuts, which affect transportation to and from the state.

Each crop experiences peak shipping season toward the middle of summer and shippers can expect difficulty in this region about that time.

Arizona

Heaviest Peak: May-July; December

Predominant Crop: Lettuce

Arizona is known for its plentiful sunshine and arid climate, making it a great state to grow leafy vegetables all year long. It produces lettuce in the largest capacity followed by melons, spinach, and cauliflower.

Inverse to most of the agricultural belt states, Arizona’s peak crop production happens when much of the rest of the country is cold. This is when the temperatures are most moderate in the state and best for growing.

Produce-influenced rate and capacity fluctuations begin in spring and carry through to mid-summer and pick up momentum again in December.

Arkansas

Heaviest Peak: June-August

Predominant Crop: Soybeans

With a warm humid subtropical climate, Arkansas is strong agriculturally, with soybeans as its largest crop yield.

Expect peak produce shipping season to hit in the early summer in this region and last through August.

California

Heaviest Peak: May-August

Predominant Crop: Grapes

The Golden State is an invaluable resource to the domestic food supply chain. It produces many crops from nuts to citrus fruits and everything in-between. Known for its plentiful sunshine and mostly mild winters, California provides a great growing climate throughout much of the year.

The most valuable crops in California are grapes, almonds, pistachios, and strawberries. We see produce season transportation tighten in May with the first harvest of these crops and remain that way until the end of summer.

Colorado

Heaviest Peak: June-July

Predominant Crop: Corn

Colorado is geographically diverse with plains covering the eastern part of the state before reaching the Rocky Mountains further west.

It is known for producing hay, corn, wheat, and potatoes.

With a late spring, early summer harvest, expect capacity to tighten around the beginning of June in Colorado and carry on until mid-summer when produce season transportation spikes conclude there.

Connecticut

Heaviest Peak: Non-Existent

Predominant Crop:  Floriculture

Connecticut has not converted an abundance of its land for agricultural use.

The Northeast state primarily produces hay and maple syrup. neither of which have much seasonal impact on capacity.

Connecticut’s crops that most affect produce season transportation are flowers and corn. Both are harvested late in the summer.

If you ship in or out of Connecticut, don’t expect produce to affect your logistics operation much.

Delaware

Heaviest Peak: September

Predominant Crop: Corn

Delaware has a disproportionate agricultural output compared to its relatively small size. The Mid-Atlantic state produces notable amounts of corn, soybeans, sweet corn, wheat, and melons. These crops have similar harvest times that begin at the start of summer and carry through to autumn.

When shipping in and out of Delaware, expect produce shipping season to have an impact on capacity and possibly rates beginning and ending in September.

Florida

Heaviest Peak: Mid-April-July

Predominant Crop: Oranges

Another agricultural hotbed, the Sunshine State produces an abundance of fruits, particularly citrus and vegetables. Along with California, Florida has some of the most days with sunshine in the domestic United States, which makes it a great climate for citrus fruits.

Florida is known for its production of oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, melons, and sweet corn.

Because of its extended growing season, expect heavy produce fluctuations to pick up in spring and carry through mid-summer.

Georgia

Heaviest Peak: May-August

Predominant Crop: Peanuts

Georgia is known for its peaches and its peanuts, both of which the state produces in abundance. It also grows quite a bit of cotton, corn, hay, and pecans, which causes Georgia’s produce season to run through much of the year.

When shipping in and out of the Peach State, expect to deal with capacity issues and possible rate spikes in late spring through to August.

Idaho

Heaviest Peak: October-December

Predominant Crop: Potatoes

Idaho is nearly synonymous with potatoes but that is not all the state grows. It produces a substantial crop of hay, wheat, barley, corn, and hops.

However, potatoes are the most widely grown product in the state and transportation is impacted by its harvest in the fall, which lasts until early winter.

If working with product going to or from Idaho during those times, expect to deal with capacity and rate fluctuations as the crop is harvested and exported out of state.

Illinois

Heaviest Peak: October-December

Predominant Crop: Corn

Illinois is an agriculture heavy state ranking 7th in terms of most farms. Like most of the Midwest, it relies mostly on corn and soybean production for its yearly yield; however, it also produces sizeable amounts of hay, wheat, and potatoes.

Expect to deal with produce shipping season capacity and rates in mid-autumn through early winter.

Indiana

Heaviest Peak: September-November

Predominant Crop: Corn

Indiana is another agrarian state, producing quite a bit of grains and vegetables. Like Illinois, Indiana grows mostly corn and soybeans as well as a sizeable tomato and melon crop.

Produce season transportation fluctuations hit the Hoosier State in the late summer and continue until corn season concludes in late fall.

Iowa

Heaviest Peak: August-October

Predominant Crop: Corn

Iowa is one the most agriculture heavy states in the US and its industry is dominated by corn and soybean production.

These two crops account for most of Iowa’s crop yield, but the state’s farms also grow some hay, oats, and wheat.

Vendors moving product into or out of the Iowa market should count on produce peaks in late summer that extend until mid-fall.

Kansas

Heaviest Peak: June-August

Predominant Crop: Corn

As the center of the dustbowl during the early 20th century, Kansas has a long history of agriculture in the United States. Currently, the Great Plains state produces a large corn, soybean, and wheat crop in addition to sorghum and hay.

Kansas’ produce season transportation spikes influence freight capacity and rates in early summer continuing through August.

Kentucky

Heaviest Peak: July-September

Predominant Crop: Soybeans

Agriculture plays a major role in Kentucky’s gross domestic product contribution. Its production is dominated by soybeans along with corn, hay, and tobacco.

Because it does not grow a wide variety of produce, its peak season comes later than other states with similar climates.

Shippers face produce-induced capacity fluctuations in the latter half of the year as soybeans are harvested.

Louisiana

Heaviest Peak: June-July

Predominant Crop: Rice

The humid subtropical climate of Louisiana makes it a great place to grow rice along with soybeans, the state’s most lucrative crop.

Because of its mild winter seasons, Louisiana has an early harvest and its produce peak season starts during the late spring/early summer and continues through July.

Expect to face a mild produce shipping season in the summer.

Maine

Heaviest Peak: August

Predominant Crop: Blueberries

Maine is widely known for its blueberry production. And even though it produces more potatoes than the fruit, blueberries are the crop that most affects the transportation market.

Because they have a short seasonal window, blueberries must be shipped when ready and unlike states with warmer climates, Maine’s fruit crop production is not staggered.

Don’t expect much of a produce peak in Maine as its crop production is relatively small compared to more agriculture heavy states, but the blueberry harvest in August can cause capacity and rate spikes in the area.

The temperature-sensitive crop occupies much of the refrigerated capacity at the end of summer.

Maryland

Heaviest Peak: August-September

Predominant Crop: Corn

Maryland has some slight agriculture production, even though it is more known for its access to the Atlantic Ocean and commercial fishing industry.

The state produces slightly more corn than it does soybeans but neither is in volumes enough to impact transportation for an extended period.

However, as summer ends, it is possible that capacity will be strained, and rates will increase as a result of the corn yield.

Massachusetts

Heaviest Peak: September

Predominant Crop: Cranberries

Much like Maryland, Massachusetts touts commercial fishing over agriculture as the state’s dominant industry.

When compared to the Midwest, agricultural output in Massachusetts and much of New England is relatively small.

However, the region is excellent for growing cranberries, which rely on bog conditions to thrive. Massachusetts grows the majority of the country’s domestic crop.

Cranberry season peaks in September.

Expect little to no disruption during most of the year, but a slight chance of capacity strain and rate increase when cranberries come into season.

Michigan

Heaviest Peak: August-September

Predominant Crop: Corn

Although the state is known for its fruit production – particularly cherries and apples – it grows lots of corn followed closely by soybeans.

It also produces a good amount of fruit, growing apples, blueberries, cherries, and cucumbers in substantial volume.

Look for capacity to be toughest to secure in the late summer going through early fall. It may slightly spike again around the pre-holiday season as Christmas trees go up in demand. Michigan is the third largest producer in the country.

Minnesota

Heaviest Peak: September-November

Predominant Crop: Corn

Harsh winters push Minnesota’s growing season later than its Midwest neighbors, but despite the colder climate, the state produces an impressive agricultural yield.

Corn and soybeans dominate the state’s commodity production followed by wheat, hay, and potatoes.

Expect to see produce season transportation affect capacity and rate fluctuations through the fall.

Mississippi

Heaviest Peak: May-July

Predominant Crop: Soybeans

Distinguished, like much of the south, by short, mild winters and long, hot summers, Mississippi boasts a long growing season for its farmers.

The state produces soybeans in abundance, which are harvested and shipped throughout the spring, summer, and fall. It also has sizeable cotton, corn, and hay crops.

Shippers going in and out of the southern state should expect to see some mild produce-driven rate and capacity fluctuations throughout some of the spring and summer.

Missouri

Heaviest Peak: July-September  

Predominant Crop: Soybeans

Two-thirds of Missouri is covered in farmland, much of which is used to produce soybeans.

Because most of the state is considered to be in the humid subtropical climate, Missouri has an extended growing season that begins in early spring and extends through the fall.

The Show Me State is also known for producing corn, hay, cotton, rice, and wheat.

When shipping in or out of Missouri, expect produce shipping season to begin in mid-summer continuing through September.

Montana

Heaviest Peak: August-November  

Predominant Crop: Wheat

Montana is vast and contains 58,000,000 acres of farmland used to grow wheat and hay. The state also grows barley, lentils, and potatoes in abundance.

Shippers with inbound or outbound Montana orders can expect to deal with produce capacity and rate fluctuations around the end of summer through the fall when the wheat crop is harvested.

Nebraska

Heaviest Peak: September-October

Predominant Crop: Corn

Like many of its neighboring states, Nebraska produces corn in abundance. In fact, its crop produced over $6 billion dollars in 2018.

Along with the valuable corn yield, the state produces a substantial soybean, hay, and wheat crop.

Produce will tighten capacity rates increase in Nebraska around September through October.

Nevada

Heaviest Peak: Non-Existent

Predominant Crop: Hay

Almost 80 percent of Nevada’s land is owned by the federal government leaving a diminished amount for agricultural production.

Combined with arid conditions throughout much of the state, the agricultural infrastructure in Nevada does not make much of an impact on transportation; however, Nevada does produce hay and wheat.

New Hampshire

Heaviest Peak: Non-Existent

Predominant Crop: Maple Syrup

New Hampshire does not produce a substantial number of crops in either variety or quantity.

That’s not to say agriculture doesn’t have a place in the state. A sizeable amount of maple syrup is harvested from New Hampshire every year making it, like its neighboring states, a great resource for the commodity.

However, shippers should not see much produce season transportation fluctuation when shipping in or out of New Hampshire.

New Jersey

Heaviest Peak: August-October

Predominant Crop: Tomatoes

Fruit makes up the majority of New Jersey’s agricultural production. The Mid-Atlantic state mostly grows blueberries, tomatoes, and peaches.

Expect to see produce make an impact on transportation beginning in the summer before tapering off in the early autumn.

New Mexico

Heaviest Peak: June; September-November

Predominant Crop: Pecans

New Mexico is not usually the first state that comes to mind when most think of pecans, but the state continues to lead the nation in the nut’s production.

The southwestern state also produces sizeable hay, pepper, and cotton crops every year.

Typically, pecans are harvested in late fall and through the first part of winter. Look for them to make an impact on transportation about that time if shipping to or from New Mexico.

New York

Heaviest Peak: August-September

Predominant Crop: Apples

New York is known for its fruit production. Upstate New York is home to many vineyards and orchards, which account for most of the agricultural production.

Although the state’s farms produce more corn and grains, by comparison, its fruit crop poses the most disruption to the logistics market.

Expect to see rate spikes and thinner capacity for Upstate New York freight at the end of the summer through the beginning of fall as fruit and corn are harvested. 

North Carolina

Heaviest Peak: June-August

Predominant Crop: Soybeans

North Carolina produces the most tobacco in the United States by a substantial margin.

However, its transportation is highly regulated, so it does not impact other transportation. The remainder of the state’s soybean, corn, hay, cotton, and sweet potato production is what causes capacity disruption.

Produce shipping season hits North Carolina beginning in early summer and extends through August. It can also pick up slightly during the pre-Christmas season as the state produces the second most fir trees in the country, but capacity is not usually impacted.

North Dakota

Heaviest Peak: September-November

Predominant Crop: Soybeans

North Dakota is a grain-dominated part of the US agricultural industry. It produces more flaxseed, wheat, and oats than anywhere else in the country.

But it is the soybean that accounts for the state’s most agricultural revenue and affects the logistics market most.

It is harvested at the beginning of fall and extends through November. If dealing with North Dakota freight, expect some capacity fluctuations around this time.

Ohio

Heaviest Peak: June-September

Predominant Crop: Soybeans

Ohio is a major player in Midwest agricultural production with substantial yields of soybeans, corn, hay, wheat, and tomatoes.

The Buckeye State is 50 percent farmland and has a rich agricultural tradition.

Expect produce season to hit Ohio starting in summer and carrying through to early fall.

Oklahoma

Heaviest Peak: July-September

Predominant Crop: Grains

Much of Oklahoma’s crop production is focused on hay, wheat, cotton, and corn. The state also produces a sizeable portion of the country’s cattle.

The Sooner State experiences mild winters and an extended growing season. Its harvest peaks around mid-summer and continues until early fall.

Expect slight rate and capacity fluctuations about this time for Oklahoma freight.

Oregon

Heaviest Peak: September-December

Predominant Crop: Christmas Trees

Oregon farms produce a diverse set of crops. Commodities like pears, hazelnuts, cherries, and hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest state.

Although crops like hay, wheat, and potatoes are grown in more abundance than fir trees, it is the Christmas symbol that impacts transportation most. Oregon produces the most Christmas trees in the US by a wide margin.

Trees are grown all summer then cut and shipped during the latter half of the fall when consumers begin prepping for the Christmas season.

Expect to see capacity disruption in Oregon during the first signs of fall through the pre-holiday season.

Pennsylvania

Heaviest Peak: August-September

Predominant Crop: Corn

The Keystone State produces a variety of crops that are more diverse than those grown in neighboring states.

While corn and hay make up a large portion of the state’s crop share, it also produces an abundance of apples, tobacco, peaches, and pumpkins.

Like many other states in the humid continental climate zone, Pennsylvania has a warm- month growing season, which pushes its harvest and peak produce season into early fall.

Expect to deal with capacity sourcing and pricing fluctuations beginning in August through September.

Rhode Island

Heaviest Peak: Non-Existent

Predominant Crop: Hay

As the smallest state in terms of geographic area the US, Rhode Island does not have much of an agriculture industry to note.

State farms do produce small amounts of hay, but this does not impact transportation markets in the area.

Shippers do not need to be concerned about the impact of Rhode Island crops on rates or capacity.

South Carolina

Heaviest Peak: June-August

Predominant Crop: Peaches; Soybeans

South Carolina farms operate on 4,800,000 acres of the state’s land producing a sizeable yield despite its size.

In South Carolina, expect to see mostly cotton, corn, and soybean fields; however, peaches have the most impact on transportation.

The first wave of peaches, known as clingstones, are ready in early June and the freestone crop begins to ripen in July.

Because of their staggered growth and corn production, expect produce shipping season to run through most of the summer.

South Dakota

Heaviest Peak: September-November

Predominant Crop: Sunflowers

South Dakota has a typical agricultural portfolio for the Northern Great Plains. It grows substantial amounts of corn, soybeans, hay, and wheat.

The state is the US’ largest producer of sunflowers and the flower crop is a very time-sensitive crop that demands the most freight attention when in bloom.

Expect capacity to be tightest beginning in September through the end of fall.

Tennessee

Heaviest Peak: June-September

Predominant Crop: Soybeans

Tennessee is a mountainous state with varied ranges of the Appalachian chain. Much of the eastern part of the state is not suitable for farmland, leaving most of the agriculture production in the west.

This is where state farmers grow soybeans, hay, corn, cotton, tobacco, wheat, and tomatoes.

Because of the state’s warm climate, its produce season transportation influx starts at the beginning of summer and extends through the first few weeks of fall.

Texas-Laredo Area

Heaviest Peak: April-July

Predominant Crop: Avocados

Texas is one of the most valuable states in the domestic food supply chain. It is the largest of the lower 48 states and has a varying climate as a result. With 127 million acres of farmland, Texas also leads the country agricultural infrastructure by a wide margin.

To better identify the fluctuations in the Texas market, we are dividing it into two regions—the Laredo area and the greater Dallas area.

The Laredo area’s produce season is dictated by its hot, semi-arid climate. Very mild winter temps allow for a long growing season.

But it’s an imported crop that most affects capacity in this region. It is estimated that 66.2 percent of avocados from Mexico pass through the Laredo border, securing capacity from spring through mid-summer.

Other than seasonal production in California, the majority of our avocados come from Mexico. It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of imported produce comes from the Central American country.  Much of that volume goes through Laredo, which affects rates and available capacity.

Texas-Dallas Area

Heaviest Peak: June-August

Predominant Crop: Cotton

Texas has more farms in operation than the next three states combined. It grows substantial amounts of cotton, hay, corn, wheat, sorghum, rice, melons, and even grapefruit.

The Dallas area is not affected by most imports. Its fluctuations are a result of Texas farm production.

Expect to see produce shipping season last throughout the Dallas area for much of the summer.

Utah

Heaviest Peak: June-July

Predominant Crop: Hay

Utah has a highly diverse landscape with five national parks. Despite the protected land, the state still has some fertile farmland.

Its arid, sunny climate make it one of the country’s best hay growing states, which is by far Utah’s most-produced crop.

The crop is typically harvested in the late spring, early summer. It won’t impact transportation much but there is a possibility of seeing some pricing and capacity fluctuations throughout the summer.

Vermont

Heaviest Peak: February-April

Predominant Crop: Maple Syrup

The Green Mountain State is widely known for its maple syrup production, whose output is the most in United States.

At well over a half-million gallons per year, Vermont is only eclipsed by Quebec for most in North America.

The sugary sap and refined syrup are ready in the late winter and early spring respectively. Expect substantial capacity to be devoted to the product during that time period every year.

Virginia

Heaviest Peak: June-August

Predominant Crop: Soybeans

Part of the Mid-Atlantic, Virginia has a relatively long growing season and can produce an abundance of hay, soybeans, corn, tobacco, cotton, wheat, apples, and tomatoes.

Virginia farmers begin harvesting some of their crops in early summer and continue through August.

Expect to see produce season transportation  capacity fluctuations around this time.

Washington

Heaviest Peak: September-November

Predominant Crop: Apples

Washington produces a variety of crops, much like its neighbor Oregon. The Pacific Northwest state grows the most apples in the country by a wide margin with 100 million boxes of the fruit produced in the state each year.

State farms also grow wheat, potatoes, hay, hops, cherries, grapes, pears, and blueberries in abundance.

Expect to deal with produce fluctuations during the last few weeks of summer and into the end of fall as Washington also grows a substantial Christmas tree crop.

West Virginia

Heaviest Peak: Non-Existent

Predominant Crop: Hay

Known as the Mountain State, West Virginia has a much more of an established mining infrastructure than it does an agricultural one. Although state farms produce a notable amount of hay every year, the crop will not likely have much of an impact on transportation.

Wisconsin

Heaviest Peak: July-September

Predominant Crop: Corn

Wisconsin is colloquially known as America’s Dairy Land and for good reason. It is second only to California in the number of milk cows in the state.

But dairy production is just part of the agricultural story for the Upper Midwest state. It grows a substantial amount of corn, hay, soybeans, potatoes, and cranberries.

With a later growing season due to harsh winters, expect to see produce pick up around the middle of summer. Expect rate and capacity fluctuations to begin around then.

Wyoming

Heaviest Peak: Non-Existent

Predominant Crop: Hay

Wyoming is not known for agricultural production. State farms grow a sizeable amount of hay, but its harvest, when the remainder of the produce output is accounted for, should not substantially affect transportation.

Prepare for Produce Shipping Season, Work with an Expert 3PL

The most pronounced produce impacts hit in mid-spring and carry through the end of summer (April – July). But agricultural production occurs in different parts of the country for the entire year, inflicting strains on the trucking market all year long.

Work with a transportation partner that keeps you informed about the effects of regional produce and educates you on how to adjust your network in response to agricultural fluctuations.

Zipline Logistics has a vast network and strong carrier relationships across the country, made possible through our specialized regional teams. We’ve built a rapport with trucks that run produce routes on a regular basis and can help you deftly navigate capacity jumps.

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