Farmers Plow Ahead Despite Cost Concerns
Auburn, May 11---Farmer
Tom Ingram is usually up before dawn these days, heading out to his
East Alabama fields each morning to plant 600 acres of cotton.
Planting season is well underway for Alabama cotton farmers, and
Ingram spends about 12 hours each day in his fields that sprawl
through Lee, Macon and Russell counties.
But planting isnít the
only thing on Ingramís mind. With fuel prices high and steadily
rising, Alabamaís row crop farmers are bracing for an expensive
"When the cost of
fuel goes up, the cost of production goes up as well," says
Dale Monks, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System crop
Producers are affected
by the high prices in a variety of ways, Monks says, from the
tractors and other machinery they use in the fields, to the
18-wheelers used to transport their supplies and products.
"The tractors they
use in the fields use diesel, but so do the big trucks used to haul
their harvested crops around," he says. "Farmers are
looking at ways to reduce their costs. There is currently no fuel
alternative for tractors and other farm equipment, so farmers will
be looking at ways to reduce their number of trips across the field.
But thereís only so much they can do, because they have to
maintain their yield, too."
Even fertilizer is more
expensive now. Last year, nitrogen fertilizer, made from natural
gas, cost about $175 a ton. Carson Jackson, owner of Piedmont
Fertilizer in Opelika, says fuel prices have driven the cost of
fertilizer as high as $240 a ton this spring.
Ingram says those high
prices are tough on farmers. To save money, he has been using a
planting method known as conservation tillage for years to help
reduce trips across his fields. Heís relying on that method this
year to help him keep costs down.
no-tilling or strip-tilling for a number of years," he says.
"That helps a lot. It cuts the trips across the field in
Monks says farmers use
either conservation tillage or conventional tillage when planting
row crops. Conservation tillage saves farmers time and money by
reducing the number of trips they make across their fields, he says.
It also helps the environment by disturbing the soil as little as
"They may be
slightly less impacted than a conventional tillage farmer as far as
fuel prices, according to their situation," Monks says.
Still, farmers are
preparing for the worst.
Lee County Extension
agent Jeff Clary says between last yearís expensive drought and
this yearís increase in fuel prices, many farmers are struggling
to make ends meet.
"Input cost versus
what they get for their product has been very expensive," says
Clary. "Things were already worse this year because of last
yearís dry weather. Now with the increase in fuel costs, too,
farmers are very concerned."
Clary says farmers need
to get about 70 cents a pound for their cotton to just barely make a
profit. Unfortunately, he says, analysts are predicting farmers will
receive only 50 cents a pound for their cotton when they sell it
Ingram says despite the
high prices, all he can do is keep on working. After all, he has 600
acres of cotton to plant.
"I canít let
worrying about this fall bother me today," he says. "Iíve
got to get out there and plant some cotton."
SOURCE: Dr. Dale
Monks, Extension Crop Physiologist, Alabama Cooperative Extension
System, (334) 844-5487