Facing High Heating Prices, Plant Growers Facing Critical Decisions - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/17/04-New Summerfield

Facing High Heating Prices, Plant Growers Facing Critical Decisions

For your holiday poinsettia or your spring plants, you might not notice a price increase right now, but there's probably one on the way.

Growers in East Texas and across the nation are seeing their profits, and in some cases their livelihoods wiped out by the rising cost of natural gas and diesel fuel.

"And when the small people are gone you're going to pay the price eventually," Jerry Carlile says as walks through his East Texas Plant Farm without a coat. Nature is still heating naturally.

"We can pray for a light winter," he adds.

But it won't be long before the heaters are lit full-time warming the tropical plants and he says 'just burning money'.

"We've really not had an increase in our prices for the last five years. So, our natural gas prices have gone up."

Fifty percent he says from what he used to pay, and nearly double on diesel fuel.

"Everybody knows that diesel has gone from $1.05 last year to $2 to $2.15 within the last month. We don't know where it's going to go," he says.

To keep from going out of business, Carlile says gas prices have to get under control, and folks need to be willing to pay a little more. Because he has to survive. In other years, when gas was expensive, profit was zero.

"I wound up, when the season was over and the final tally was done, I worked that whole season for the gas company. So we've got to be smarter than that in the future," Carlile says.

He's scaling back those plants not in high demand, hanging ferns floor to ceiling to save space and saving the warmth. So his family business can survive the winter cold.

Carlile sells to some larger retail outlets like Wal-Mart. He says the price he gets is locked in at the same price as other growers across the nation. He says he needs to recieve a price that will make growing worthwhile, or he and others will be forced to sell elsewhere -- or they could be forced out of business.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.

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