Valley Farmers Adjust Practices

May 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Five-dollars a gallon is closer to reality for those who use diesel. Farmers are especially feeling the pain but the high price of fuel isn't something they can pass on. Local grower Keith Nilmeier said with diesel prices doubled from a year ago he had no choice but to mortgage his future. Nilmeier said "I went out and sold some of my retirement stock this year to help flow me through the rest of the summer until we start harvesting."

Nilmeier also runs his own trucking company to move valley produce. He said "I'm looking at a fuel bill this year being 600-700-thousand dollars."

To save money on fuel local farmers have been attaching more equipment to the back of their tractors. "So what we've done here is incorporating a disc with a furrower hooked on the back of the disc so that we could go through and disc the ground and furrow the ground all at the same time," said Nilmeier.

Some farmers will plant seeds at the same time.

The Thompson seedless grapes are developing nicely and you normally don't see so many weeds between rows.

But instead of discing his vineyards 6-7 times before harvest, Nilmeier will go through just three times to cut back on fuel and labor. "And getting it worked up so my weeds aren't competing with water for the vines and yet it still doesn't slow everything as much so we don't have run our pumps as long to make it work."

Diesel also powers the pumps which send water to his fields.

Years ago, Nilmeier used to stockpile diesel because he knew when prices would drop. The stock market approach no longer works. Nilmeier said "It used to work like a pendulum. It would go up then it would come back down and you'd catch it somewhere in between but right now the pendulum is kinda like this. It goes up comes down a little bit and then goes up higher."

But it doesn't come back down very far. Analysts say increased global demand for diesel and the cost of removing sulfur from diesel have caused fuel prices to spike.


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