Diesel fuel prices putting the strain on farmers

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo William Matejka is driving back home to Ottawa, Ill., from a trip to Arizona. He said he’s paying about a $1.50 more per gallon of diesel than he was at the beginning of his trip.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ Staff Writer

William Matejka and Pamela Kiest stopped at the Love’s gas station Monday to fill up their diesel pickup truck, which was pulling an RV trailer.

Matejka said RV-ing is a lifestyle that he and Kiest might have to rethink because of the skyrocketing fuel prices.

The retired couple from Ottawa, Ill., were making their way home from Tucson, Ariz.

On their way to Arizona in January, Matejka said he would spend about $70 to fill up his tank. A little more than a month later, the cost has doubled.

Diesel was $3.97 a gallon at Love’s Travel and Country Stop on Mabry Drive.

“We’re driving home … We have no choice,” he said.

Like Matejka, area farmers and truck drivers have no choice but to pay the steep price of diesel fuel, which was about $3.25 a gallon in January, according to the Energy Information Administration Web site. At this time last year, diesel prices were a little under $2.75 a gallon.

“There’s not much choice. You got to care for your crops, that would be a mistake to cut back on your care of your crops,” said Frank Blackburn, who grows milo, wheat and raises cattle on 5,000 acres of farmland.

He said fuel prices have had an impact on costs of raising his crops and cattle.

“I’ve got five tractors, one of them has a 270-gallon (fuel tank),” he said. “Every time I fill that tractor up it’s almost $1,000 a month … it is a major cost.”

He said prices of cattle feed could also go up because of fuels costs.

“Most of these truckers are adding on fuel costs and raising their prices,” he said.

Blackburn said while fuel prices are high, the price of crops such as wheat and corn have helped offset fuel costs. But he said there’s no guarantee that the prices will keep.

Hoyt Pattison grows milo, wheat and pasture grass on about 3,500 acres of land in his farm north of Clovis.

He spends about $15,000 a year to fuel his farm equipment, which consists of two combines and five tractors.

He said he sprays weeds instead of plowing them to save up on fuel costs.

“(Fuel prices) are certainly burdensome and the wheat prices have compensated being as high as they are, and we hope they’ll stay high, otherwise we’ll be in a bind,” he said.