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Gas prices affecting farmers too

Lawton_With diesel fuels on the rise, and truckers threatening a strike, farmers have no choice but to fuel up.  They have to use diesel to power tractors and other equipment, not to mention trucks to transport their goods such as livestock and crops that are perishable.  As soon as a farmer's product is ready for market, it has to be shipped as they may spoil.  If farmers don't sell what they produce, they don't eat.

Some local farmers worry that they won't be able to earn money for food, much less profit.  All farm expenses are high - the cost of diesel, fertilizer, equipment, and even feed for animals have increased - and, farmers don't know what else they can do.  "We use our tractors and trucks to produce our products, look after our cattle, and it's really costing us as farmers to operate," say farmer Don Hankins.

Hankins says he paid $2.32 per gallon last year, and that same gallon is up by one dollar - even on biodiesel.  "It costs $3.50 for farm fuel," says Freddie Garrett of Comanche County Farm Bureau.  "You have a tractor that'll cost....it'll use 10 gallons an hour."  Since farmers' goods are perishable, and in the case of animals must be fed daily, farmers can't put a stop on production.  "There's no place to strike, you can't keep your product off the market.  You can't keep from hauling your cattle to town. Cattle have to be looked after, our crops have to be looked after, and you can't just walk away from it for two weeks and let it go," he says.  "It has to have twenty-four-seven attention, especially on livestock."

Hankins says retail stores can mark up prices to be sure they earn a profit, but farmers must sell at wholesale based on what a buyer is willing to pay.  "Your product will go higher, and we certainly don't want to get in a situation where we have to buy or import all of our food, like we're in the situation with oil;" he says.  "That could easily happen if we're not very careful."

But, Hankins' real concern isn't outsourcing.  He's concerned about farmers not having enough money to pay for necessities.  "If this just keeps going up just like it is now, some of them will just simply have to quit," he says. 

Garrett says the Farm Bureau has attempted to get legal legislation passed to help farmers with this situation, but their attempts have not been fruitful.  To additionally cut down on costs, farmer must cut back on cultivating fields, running tractors and trailers as little as possible - sometimes not at all.  Wildfires have also been detrimental to farmers, and burned many crops and hay bales - and in some cases even cattle.

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