Tractor

The pain at the pump brought on by continuously rising gas prices is top-of-mind for all Americans, but what's often overlooked is the impact it's having on local farmers who pay to fuel mostly diesel-powered machinery every day to make a living. Some local farmers have had to makes changes and say they're worried about the future of their farms because if rising output costs, in general, 

David Marvel operates his own farm, and says it can cost more than $1,000 to fill up his tractor with fuel. He says it adds up to a cost of $1.60 per minute to run. Plus, a full tank is used up in one day's worth of work on the farm.

Given that and other high output costs, Marvel says profit and yields have suffered. 

"It's basically taking profit away," Marvel said. "Even though we're getting more for our commodity prices right now, so we're getting more for corn and soybeans, you're looking at 25 to 40% up, depending on the market day. But our input costs are between 100 and 300% higher. So, even though we're grossing more money, we're netting less than we were 18 months ago. And it looks like this year we're not even going to have the crop that we did last year."

Many farmers, including Marvel, have stopped growing fruits and vegetables altogether because they say the risk isn't worth it. Instead, they're focusing only on more profitable crops, like corn, barley, wheat, and soybeans, which are used to make other products. Marvel usually grows watermelons on his farm, but says he isn't this year. 

The increased risk the livelihood now brings has Marvel worried about the future of small, local farms like his. 

"We're not only concerned about ourselves, but we're concerned about our children," Marvel said. "We're concerned that if they say, 'I don't want to do that,' we won't have the next generation because if you grossed a million dollars and only cleared $30,000, you can go someplace else and make that same amount of money and work five days a week."

Delaware households did receive a $300 stimulus to help alleviate some of the pain at the pump. Marvel says that doesn't do much for farmers who need to fuel their heavy machinery every day. He is calling on elected officials to advocate on behalf of farmers and these struggles they're facing. 

"We just need a fighting chance to be able to produce food for the people, produce the food for the animals, produce the animals.," Marvel said. "And we just need some help from our elected officials to really realize what we're going through and not just, I hate to say lip-service, but realize it's going to affect everybody sooner or later. And if we don't take care of some of these issues now, we're going to be paying a lot later."

The average price of diesel fuel in Delaware as of Thursday is about $5.96 a gallon - almost a dollar higher than regular, unleaded gasoline. 

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