Alabama farmers feeling impacts of inflation

Trinity Farms in Letohachee, Alabama.
Trinity Farms in Letohachee, Alabama.(Source: WSFA)
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 8:38 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2022 at 10:17 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The economy is impacting all of us, whether it’s record inflation or rising gas prices, but farmers are especially feeling the pinch.

The cost of raw materials and supplies is on the rise for farmers across the state, just ahead of the spring planting season.

“Whether it’s fertilizer, fuel, other crop protection products, all of those are up quite a bit year over year when we look at the last year,” said Mitt Walker with the Alabama Farmers Federation.

David Lee is a cattle farmer in Letohatchee. He owns and operates Trinity Farms, a direct farmer-to-consumer operation. Lee says the price of fuel, cattle feed and even the interest rates on their operating loans are up.

“Everything that we bring in, supplies, our feed, everything has increased, and it’s projected to continue increasing,” Lee said.

“Even though commodity prices are higher, the margins have gotten so slim because the inputs cost so much. They really can’t afford to cut corners by reducing fertilizer or other things because they’ve got to maximize the output of the crop to get to that break-even point,” Walker said.

Farmers are price takers, meaning they don’t set their price. The market does. It’s why some farmers like Lee have turned to direct selling.

“You may see beef, let’s say, in the meat case going way up, but the price that the farmer received wouldn’t reflect off that, and sometimes it may even be lower,” Lee said.

Increased costs have pushed some farmers to retire. Lee said he and his family are making ends meet, but that’s only if prices don’t continue to go up.

“We are making less, the farmers in general are living on less income,” Lee said. “There’s a lot of farmers that are getting out of the business even in the last few months just saying it’s not worth it.”

Lee, however, remains optimistic things will turn around.

“We want to continue doing what we’re doing and we’re very hopeful for the future,” Lee said.

“They’re going to have to do the best they can knowing that inputs are going to be higher, and we’re going to have to hope for a really good year in terms of yield and quality,” Walker added.

Higher prices could lead to some costs being passed on to the consumer. To ensure the quality and price of your produce doesn’t change, you’re encouraged to buy directly from local farmers to cut out any need for a middle man.

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