Farmer's take

New year, new considerations

By CHELSEA HILL
Posted 1/18/22

I both love and dread January each year. I love the start to a new year, the excitement it brings and the hope that this year will be better than the last. I also dread it because it means that time …

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Farmer's take

New year, new considerations

Posted

I both love and dread January each year. I love the start to a new year, the excitement it brings and the hope that this year will be better than the last. I also dread it because it means that time has once again slipped by so quickly that I feel I didn’t accomplish half of what I intended to the year before. Not to mention I just hate the cold, everything seems to break down, and if you’ve ever had to milk in negative-degree temperatures you know what I’m talking about when I say one manicure would never be enough to fix the chapped skin from that chore.

But I feel that many don’t quite understand how much of an optimist you must be in order to survive if you plan on going into farming. Things happen that are completely out of your control, and for the most part, you must take it and be creative enough to find a solution.

For example, looking at the future prices of inputs for farmers this year makes my heart sink. If you haven’t heard of the ever-increasing price of fuel, I would like to break down what that truly means for a producer of food. Not only does that mean higher costs to run the tractors, but also anything that relies on fossil fuels. Plastics, say, for growing vegetables or containers for products, anything that needs to be delivered to the farm such as feed, parts, supplies, etc. or items that need to be picked up will have a heavier delivery charge. It’s amazing, the sheer number of items that are going to be six to 10 percent more expensive this year to purchase. Added together, how will that affect the bottom line of our local producers?

One input that specifically concerns me the most, as it affects all parts of production, is the giant increase in the price of fertilizer. No, not the composted animal waste that livestock and dairy farmers use, but the commercial fertilizers (organic and conventional) that are used by crop farmers, vegetable farmers, and, yes, by livestock and dairy farmers as well. As of today, the price index for all the major ingredients used in the formation of fertilizers has increased in cost by over 100 percent from last year.

As the price of fertilizer can vary from 10 to 30 percent of an operation’s overall cost of production, that’s a significant increase that will force farmers to increase the sale price of their products, if they’re able to. Some producers who sell their products on an open market or have an exclusive buyer or contract may find they won’t be able to sell their products to cover their costs this year. This may also limit the number of crops that a farmer decides to plant this year. Or if the farmer is unable to purchase the fertilizer needed to adequately care for the crops, then crop yields will be much lower than in previous years.

Both situations mean fewer products produced on the market, and will increase the prices of those products.

For the consumer end, this means that in the grocery store you may start feeling the weight of those issues hit your wallet.

Unfortunately, as optimistic as I would like to feel about this year being a great change from last year, I think we are going to continue to feel the effects of the last two years, for this year and perhaps beyond.

What I do feel optimistic about, however, is that farmers will always focus on the fact that everyone has to eat and, locally speaking, there are many who will do the utmost to make sure their products are available for the public, which makes me proud of our area producers— but that’s just this farmer’s take.

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