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Falling commodity prices and high fuel killing rural Colorado

DENVER—Burlington, Colo., farmer Ryan Niebur told the Senate Agriculture Committee today that skyrocketing fuel prices coupled with fall commodity prices are wrecking havoc on rural Colorado.

“Wherever rural Americans gather today, they are talking about fuel costs,” Niebur said. “They also are discussing survival of their farms and rural communities, while noting the outrageous profits being reported by the oil industry.”

“Natural gas prices increased 215 percent over the last three years, raising my cost of irrigation per crop year from $50 per acre in 2003 to $158 per acre in 2006, a number I can calculate because our local gas company has already established this price,” Niebur told the committee. “At this rate, farmers will not be able to afford to irrigate and will be forced to farm without water in an area that has been in drought for the last five years.”

Niebur, a fourth-generation farmer farms 4500 acres of irrigated and dry land ground near Burlington, Colo. Between 2003 and 2005 the price for farm fuel has risen by more than 155 percent, and liquid nitrogen used to fertilize our soil increased by 68 percent. During the same time, the price of corn has fallen by 26 percent, Niebur told the committee.

“With all due respect to the recommendations for conserving energy given by non-farming folks here today, I have to tell you that most producers in business now are already using no-till farming, as well as every other recommendation made today,” Niebur said. “Even with these and other fuel-saving measures, farming operations with today’s input costs and commodity prices just will not cash flow. That is something that the bank will not accept.”

Niebur added that the higher fuel costs coupled with lower commodity prices will affect land rental rates, result in a loss of farm equity and a loss of farmers.

“Farmers and ranchers are waiting for a clear signal that Congress and the Administration are taking seriously the economic crisis resulting from high energy and fuel costs, and that something will be done to address the problem,” said Niebur.