Farmers press on despite diesel costs
Diesel fuel may be $2 more per gallon than it was last year, but farmers can’t afford to wait through the price spike.
“When it comes down to go, you gotta go,” Alan Hett said.
Hett is about to start planting corn. That requires tractors, combines, sprayers, and trucks, which in turn require diesel fuel — usually a lot of it.
“If everything was empty — and that’s not counting the irrigating pump, the tanks on them are about 1,000 gallons each but we don’t have to fill them every day — it would take a couple thousand gallons to fuel everything,” Hett said. “We don’t use it all every day, but everything takes fuel.”
With diesel fuel costing an average of $4.95 per gallon in the Midwest, farmers are spending thousands to fuel their vehicles. When prices spiked in mid-March, it cost as much as $5.04 per gallon in the Midwest and $5.25 per gallon nationwide according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration
Kansas has lower diesel prices on average than other states. The West Coast is at $5.83 ($6.29 in California) and the east coast is at $5.21.
The price increase is due in large part to increasing crude oil prices.
While diesel prices can be a pain, costs of other materials are more pressing, Alan Vogel of Marion said.
“To be honest, the overall cost of energy and fertilizer is a higher percent of our costs,” he said.
Fertilizer prices — especially for nitrogen fertilizer — have tripled.
Tariffs on imported fertilizer are blamed for reducing competition and causing domestic prices to rise.
“I think we would have seen prices come down a little bit if it weren’t for that,” Vogel said. “Corn, wheat, and soybeans all need a little bit of phosphate and potassium, too, and those have gone up as well.”
Most of the costs aren’t optional.
“We’re gonna have to pay it,” Hett said. “It’s all we can do.”
Vogel was misidentified in some earlier editions of this story.