Valley farmers concerned with rising diesel fuel costs

FRESNO, Calif.

A spike in fuel costs has hit Valley farmers especially hard. Many rely on diesel fuel to prepare the land and irrigate crops at this time of year.

The average price of regular unleaded in California is now $3.92 a gallon. But diesel fuel costs even more - $4.22 a gallon.

Farmers can't pass along the fuel increase but believe consumers will eventually be stuck with the bill.

Diesel-run forklifts and tractors move food off the farm and eventually to your plate. Fresno County Farm Bureau Executive Director Ryan Jacobsen explained, "Everything from the tractors running the operation to the groundwater pumps to the trucks that transport products to market all rely upon majority diesel fuel."

Keith Nilmeier runs a trucking operation in addition to growing oranges and peaches. The steady rise in diesel fuel prices has Nilmeier worried. A 10,000 gallon tank is the biggest of his three storage tanks.

Nilmeier said, "If I would've filled these things up in December I would have probably saved $1.10 a gallon as compared to today."

A healthy snowpack is expected to keep canals flowing in several irrigation districts through the summer. But many farms still use diesel engines to run the pumps to water their crops.

Nilmeier said high diesel costs may force some farmers to switch to higher value crops or those which don't require as much water. "They're going to be looking at other crops. Cotton was real good last year so they'll be looking at cotton or they'll maybe looking at some other type of row crop."

Nilmeier also said if fuel prices don't come down, any products which need to be transported will go up. "It's going to affect everything that we consume, not just food."

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