Farmers and the High Price of Fuel

April 20, 2006 -- Posted at 6:02 p.m. CST


CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR -- This could be the last year for many farmers throughout Region 8.


And not just Region 8 farmers either, the number of farmers in the United States is getting smaller, and while there are other factors that play into that, one of the biggest hardships now is the high cost of fuel.


“They’re projecting fuel to go on up, and I think it’s just going to be the nail in the coffin for so many people,” said Farm Bureau President Kevin Hoke.


“It’s happening everyday… it’s happening as we speak.  I know some farmers that wanted to farm this year and were unable to,” said Farmer David Watkins.


Watkins and his family have been farming for many years.


“We have a lot of equipment.  We’re very dependent on fuel.  We can’t farm without it,” said Watkins.


A mid-size tractor will use about 8 gallons of fuel an hour, and with higher prices for fuel, the cost of running it is getting higher and higher.


“Fuel consumption has been up so much because we had the drought conditions last year and, and coupled with that and the high prices for fuel, it put an extreme hardship on all farmers,” said Hoke.


Over the past year there has been a price increase of 40 to 50 cents a gallon.  


Hoke says, “The average farmer inCraighead County probably uses about 40,000 to 50,000 gallons of fuel a year.”


What can be done to help farmers stay in the business?


“As bad as I hate to admit it, we’re going to have to have some government help.  We don’t have any control over the prices of the crop that we grow, if we don’t get some help, I think you’ll see a lot of farmers that will go out,” said Hoke.


One of the ways farmers are helping themselves is by cutting down on their use of fuel.


“We’ve got to get our dependency off this foreign oil.  One way we can do it, and farmers have come up with this, is the bio-diesel.  It only makes sense.  It’s good for all of us,” said Hoke.


“We’re using soy diesel, which is a soy oil blended in with the diesel fuel to help use a product we raise on our farms,” said Watkins.


There are many locations around Region 8 that offer bio-diesel fuel.  Eastman Kodak in Batesville produces 3,000,000 gallons of fuel a year.