Everyone these days is feeling pressure at the pump, but local farmers are especially taking a hit.
Most farming equipment takes diesel, and as of June 16, the average price of the fuel in St. Joseph is $5.14 per gallon, according to AAA. This time last year, it was more than $2 less at $2.88 per gallon.
Missouri farmer Tim Gach said that $2 extra is adding up fast.
“We’re a very small farm operation compared to a lot of them around the (area), but we’ll burn through, I think, four or five barrels of fuel, so close to 2,000 gallons,” Gach said. “And $2 a gallon per, that’s an extra $4,000 it’s costing us just in fuel.”
Gach grows corn, soybeans and has a cow-calf herd. He’s currently in what he calls his “haying and spraying time of year,” bailing hay and spraying crops. He said this year one of his tractors costs about $300 to fill up and another is costing $500.
“You put fuel in those two tractors and then you turn around and you put fuel in the SpraCoupe and you put some fuel in the little tractors that do the little chores and things like that, and it adds up pretty quick,” Gach said.
He said one of his most-worked tractors burns five to six gallons of diesel to cover 10 acres. Multiply that by $5 a gallon and Gach is spending $25 to cover 10 acres, equaling $2.50 an acre in fuel alone.
Garrett Hawkins, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said farmers are being hit by all sorts of price hikes. Compared to previous years, diesel is up 200% and fertilizer is up 200% to 300%. While the cost of goods rises at the grocery store, Hawkins said farmers aren’t necessarily seeing that money at the farm gate.
“Farmers and ranchers at the end of the day are price takers, not price makers,” Hawkins said. “So, all of us within our respective families are having the difficult conversations about how we cut back to control costs and still try to be profitable this year.”
Gach said it’s getting difficult to find ways to save, and this year he decided to cut back on fertilizer.
“That one is a tough one because we’re kind of seeing it a little bit, we know going in that we probably won’t have the yields that we anticipate,” Gach said. “We really questioned hard the decision to do that.”
When it comes to solutions, Hawkins supports a federal comprehensive energy policy. This would call for all sources of energy that can be produced in the United States, including traditional, renewable and alternative, to be extracted, produced and distributed in America.
Gach supports the idea of domestic energy production, as well.
“I don’t want to rely on some foreign country to provide me with the oil and things I need in order to do my job,” Gach said. “Not whenever our country has the capability of doing that.”
Hawkins said there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the current price hikes, but farmers will continue to do their part in getting a crop in the ground and getting livestock raised.
“We’re upholding our end of the deal to make sure that the United States continues to have ample supplies of food. So, we’re doing our part,” Hawkins said. “But just know that we are all in this together. We are all grappling with the added costs of putting food on the table for our families and getting to and from work every day.”