High diesel prices affect farmers, with costly alternatives on the table

Prices at the pump are up again and setting records, even for diesel fuel depended on by farmers.
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 5:37 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2022 at 9:22 PM CDT
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DODGEVILLE, Wis. (WMTV) - Prices at the pump are up again and setting records, even for diesel fuel depended on by farmers.

AAA said Monday that the average cost of diesel per gallon in Wisconsin is $5.25. It is the highest recorded for the category.

Farmers need diesel fuel for large equipment like semis and tractors, Rachel Gerbitz explained. Gerbitz is the director of sustainability communications and partnerships at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

“Diesel is definitely a convenient available option for farmers and probably the most preferred option,” she said, noting the busy time of year currently with different types of field work.

“I’m not going to be driving a tractor on the field at $5 a gallon for fuel,” Ryan Dolan, part owner at a Dodgeville dairy farm, said. “I’ll try doing some more no-till and that kind of stuff this year.”

With higher gas costs this year, Dolan said he is also turning tractors off when they’re not actively needed.

According to Gerbitz, renewable alternatives to gas are out there. Examples include corn-based ethanol or manure that has gone through a methane digester.

The infrastructure for a digester can cost upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, even into the millions, Gerbitz said.

“The cost input and infrastructure to get a digester up and running is obviously going to take some preparation and planning,” Gerbitz said. She added, there are many cases of multiple farmers investing in one digester.

“Farmers are the original conservationists and have been innovating and implementing these new technologies for decades,” she said, “So I feel that we are very well stationed in these more challenging high-cost times to be prepared for the future.”

Dolan said he won’t be switching out of gas now. “Not without major investment,” he said.

He noted, gas is driving up the farm’s total expenses, not just directly at the pump, but also through suppliers and special fees related to fuel.

“We’re going to see more significant impact to the business because of the increase in prices on our fertilizer, the chemicals, plastic and so forth,” Dolan said.

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