Rising diesel prices weigh heavily on Midstate farmers

LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — As oil prices continue to rise, drivers are feeling the impact at the pumps, but those costs are also hitting Midstate farmers. Diesel prices are putting a strain on farmers’ wallets.

A Lebanon County farmer said those higher prices made everything he did more expensive, and some of those costs would be passed on to consumers.

“My grandfather bought this farm in 1944, so I’m third generation,” said Steve Wenger, owner of Wen Crest Farms.

Wenger’s farm has been in the family for almost 80 years and his youngest son plans to take over the business eventually.

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Wenger houses livestock, raises chickens, grows corn and soybeans, and transports livestock across the country. However, in recent years things have become much more difficult.

“We spend thousands of dollars a day,” he said.

The latest problem he faces: soaring diesel prices.

“It’s just hard to believe,” he said.

Wenger needs diesel for his farm equipment and livestock trucks, often traveling hundreds of miles a day.

“About two weeks ago I ordered diesel fuel…Three days later it was up 80 to 85 cents,” he said.

Rising fuel prices are just one more cost Wenger faces, on top of the lingering effects of the pandemic.

“It’s not just fuel, energy and all that, it’s also manpower,” he said.

Wenger is paying employees more to keep them on, and supply chain issues have put a damper on getting new equipment.

“We ordered one for a year and it finally arrived this winter,” he said.

The increase in profits is not always enough to cover the additional expenses.

“On the trucking side, it’s hard to raise your rates fast enough to keep up,” Wenger said.

At present, the price Wenger can get for his crops is high enough, but the price is not stable.

“It might go down again in the fall, and then you won’t make a lot of money, but if it continues, you should be fine,” he said.

Wenger added that all of these costs farmers face will mean consumers will have to pay more for their produce.

“They’re going to see it in supermarkets, they’re going to see it on everything you buy,” he said.

Rising oil prices are also impacting farmers beyond their diesel fuel needs. Wenger said he was paying more for propane to heat his barns, and prices for some petroleum-based fertilizers had also risen.

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