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Local ag industry feels high gas prices pinch

The local agriculture industry is feeling the impacts of higher gas prices.

“We’re already seeing the trickle down of the high gas prices into our feed costs,” said Kent Knappenberger of Westfield. “We are just a hobby farm and it’s affecting us. I can’t imagine what this same problem is like when you’re dealing with a large farm that has huge feed costs already.”

It’s not the first time high gas prices have impacted the local agriculture industry.

“I am a retired farmer,” Steve Kimball of Falconer said. “I sold my dairy herd and equipment in 2013 and am still in the process of selling my cropland. But I am therefore old enough to have farmed through the previous gas and diesel shortage in the 1970s. As I recall, the price was frozen at the federal level. Agriculture was given priority and my bulk fuel deliveries were always timely. But gas stations were rationed. Some states implemented odd license plates on odd days and even license plates on even days.

See GAS, Page A3

“But, agriculture was a priority. There seems to be no recognition of any priority this time. I don’t want to sound political but back then it felt like there was some plan to get through an emergency. I do not have that feeling now.”

Kimball added that as far as he could remember, OPEC threatened to stop oil shipments during the Nixon administration, leading to a plan for the Strategic Oil Reserve. During the Ford administration, the abandoned oil wells were “beefed up,” and after Ford lost to Carter, OPEC did stop oil shipments, leading to the freezing of the oil price.

While the situation is different today, even smaller farms are feeling the pressure. Some also recall a difference in the situation in 2008 than the one currently.

“I’m certain the dairy farmers are feeling the pressure of the high price of fuel as well as we are,” said Bradley Edwards of Panama. “While I’m no longer in the dairy business now, I did live through it in 2008 and 2009. The difference this time around is the price they’re getting for milk and beef is much better. Back then in 2008 everything farmers produced were at an all time low. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy this time, but we will all live through it just like we did before. Fuel prices will eventually come down again.”

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