Inflation and farmers

Inflation and farmers

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
During a press conference, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, told participants that out-of-control inflation is having a major negative impact on the agriculture industry.

He also reminded them that inflation in farm country translates into higher food costs for consumers at the retail level.

All Idahoans are feeling the pinch of record high inflation and rapid price increases, Crapo said.

“Nowhere is this more apparent than in the agriculture industry, where Idaho farmers are experiencing increases across their operations, from seed, chemical and fertilizer to the diesel used in harvest equipment and shipping, all of which culminate in higher costs for consumers,” he said.

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation helped host the press conference, which was held at a farm in Murtaugh in Twin Falls County.

A handful of farmers were there to share their own experiences with rapidly rising farm production costs.

Larry Hollifield, who farms in nearby Hansen, read through a list of some of the price increases his farming operation has sustained year over year.

The list includes a 73 percent increase in diesel fuel costs, 97 percent increase in the price of dry nitrogen, 118 percent increase in liquid nitrogen, 21 percent increase in baling twine, 43 percent increase in tires for irrigation pivots, and a 17 percent increase in miscellaneous chains that are used to operate the farm’s various machines.

“It’s very difficult to market our crops for sale when our input costs keep increasing,” said Hollifield, president of Twin Falls County Farm Bureau.

The backdrop for the press conference were large, 20,000-gallon fuel tanks and Hollifield used those as an example of how serious of an impact inflation is having on farmers and ranchers.

The farmer who owns that property, he said, paid $43,800 more this year to fill just one of the tanks.

Hollifield shared a 1960 quote from former U.S. President John F. Kenney to make his point that farmers and ranchers are getting hit from every angle by high inflation: “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”

Bryan Jensen, parts manager for Stotz Equipment, a John Deere dealer in Twin Falls, said the dealership has seen double-digit increases in the price of parts over the past year.

“In about a 14-month period … I’ve seen 20 to 21 percent increases, across the board,” he said.

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation CEO Zak Miller, a farmer from Rigby, said farmers are price takers, not price makers, and high inflation is making life uncertain for them because they don’t control how much they have to pay for inputs or how much they can charge for their commodity.

“We’re seeing right now significant challenges in farm country,” he said. “No farmer can actually control the price that they receive. In this inflationary environment, that puts a pinch on them.”

Unfortunately, Miller said, the large increases in production costs that farmers and ranchers are facing are translating into higher prices for consumers and that pain is being felt the most by those least able to afford it.

He pointed to a recent annual survey conducted by American Farm Bureau Federation that showed Americans paid on average 17 percent more for their Fourth of July picnic this year.

“The worst, most insidious part of this whole inflation thing is that those that are most vulnerable are the ones that may have to choose what they can and cannot put on their table,” Miller said.

Crapo said the record-high inflation “comes from an uncontrolled, unfettered spending spree in Washington, and a taxing spree in Washington, and a regulatory spree in Washington, that is driving up prices.”  

The senator said one of the most achievable solutions to reversing the trend of rapidly rising inflation is for the nation to once again become energy-independent.

“First … we have to get America back into the business of producing our own energy,” Crapo said. “We need to become energy independent again and we can do that … That’s something we can get done if we can get the political willpower in Washington to do it.”

He also addressed other issues, including federal labor and trade policy.

“They are the kinds of things I’m hopeful America will demand we get focused on,” Crapo said.

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