Fertilizer, fuel costs plague farmers ahead of season

Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Farmers on the High Plains are used to dealing with volatile weather, but they are faced with some new challenges this season. Across the nation, farmers are adjusting to higher operating costs for things like chemicals, herbicides, and fertilizer. Kody Bessent, CEO at Plains Cotton Growers, says in our region, fertilizer costs are almost double what they were a year ago.

“Fertilizer costs are certainly at astronomical levels,” he said.

Bessent says they are up from $50-60 an acre to $80-100 across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

“I don’t think fertilizer prices are going to come down for at least a year to 18 months,” Texas Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller said.

Miller says problems overseas are to blame, like Chinese exports. Bessent says the Russian invasion of Ukraine is impacting prices, as “a lot” of fertilizers are sourced from Ukraine.

Bessent says most growers in our area have already written off pre-applying fertilizer. The recent surge in fuel cost is another challenge farmers are facing.

“You’re sort of on a budget. You try to plan and stay within that budget throughout the year, but when you see these big increases, it’s really hard to stay on budget and be able to come out either break even at the end of the day or try to make some sort of profit at the end of the day,” Bessent said.

To help with that profit, Bessent says cotton futures are still high at $1.10/pound. He says that’s relatively historic, compared to the $0.50-0.60 a couple of years ago.

“The prices are great for most commodities, but the input costs and the inflationary effects of, for example, fuel costs or fertilizer, which is up over 300 percent, all of those things have to be taken into consideration when we’re putting in reference prices and when we’re putting together this, what I call, risk-management tools for the volatility in prices and weather,” Lubbock Congressman Jodey Arrington said.

Arrington says input costs must be considered as lawmakers start the process on next year’s farm bill.

Bessent says farmers finalize their plans before planting in just a few weeks. Some growers are considering planting fewer acres or looking at more of a rotation to adjust. He says 70 percent of a farmer’s budget is spent before seed goes in the ground.

“So, a lot of that money is sourced upfront with the hope and a prayer that they’ll have a good year, a good production year,” he said.

He says growers are always up for the challenge, no matter the risk.

“It’s a passion. It’s a way of life. Most of these people have been doing this for generations.”

Outside of costs, Bessent says farmers are facing the usual challenge of needing good rain to get this crop up and going.

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