!!!HOLD STORY!!! Farmers And Ranchers Feel Fuel Pinch, But Can't Pass Costs On - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/13/05-Smith County

!!!HOLD STORY!!! Farmers And Ranchers Feel Fuel Pinch, But Can't Pass Costs On

Has the price of gasoline hit it's high for now in East Texas? It looks like it at the pump, but for many folks -- those who help put food on our tables -- they're going to have to shell out more money than ever before.  That's just to keep their crops growing, and their cattle grazing.

The grass is growing, and Jimmy Bain's tractors are out, eating up money as the cattle graze.

"Last year, about this time, we were giving about $1.15 to $1.20 for farm diesel. I paid $1.86 for some a couple of weeks ago," Bain says.

His increased cost comes from more than just the fuel in the tractor. It is in every blade of grass and every bale of hay. That's because fertilizer is higher, too.

"Last year, we were probably looking at $40 an acre on these hay meadows. This year, we're looking at $60. That's just for fertilizer."

Extension agent Brian Triplett explains, "Fertilizer prices are driven by natural gas prices, and the natural gas prices tend to follow the crude oil prices. When oil goes up, gas goes up."

But like any industry that passes cost onto the consumer, Jerry Bain says he's in a tough spot.

"We're not an average retailer. We have to quote the market."  That means the cattle market doesn't rise because fuel does.

"We just have to absorb it," Bain says.

Fortunately, He's getting good prices for his cows right now. And while he says his profit could be down 20 percent or more this year, he'll always keep on.

Like his father did.

"Your farmers and ranchers were a pretty tough breed. They took it on the chin a couple of times, and they always seem to stay," Bain says.

Extension Agent Brian Triplett says farmers and ranchers can save some money by timing their fertilizer releases when it will help the soil the best -- on average mid-April to mid-May. A soil test can also determine which specific nutrients are needed, so as to not waste money by overfertilizing.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.

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