Rising costs of tending crops and raising livestock are driving up supermarket prices for American families.
HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. – The United States reports that food prices have jumped 10% in the past year, the biggest increase since the 1980s. Indiana farmers say the war in Ukraine is only one of many events that have led to increased input costs, which, in turn, means that food is more expensive for families.
Farmer Chris Muegge of M5 Family Farms in Hancock County started planting this month and said it costs more to tend his crops and raise his livestock. As a result, he is warning families that food prices are unlikely to fall anytime soon.
“We’re next to today’s fertilizer prices, we’re next to today’s fuel prices, all of which are up at least 50% or even 75%,” Muegge said. . “So this crop that we are planting today to harvest this fall is really going to be affected by that. And we started to see all these input costs start to go up a year ago, but they really accelerated when this conflict happened.
Farming input costs have been rising for about a year now. These costs represent all the farmer has to pay to ensure a good harvest and healthy livestock. Muegge said prices for his fuel, labor, litter and feed were on the rise. He also struggles to get vaccines for his livestock.
“We can’t get it,” Muegge said. “Not because we don’t have the vaccine, because the plastic bottle it goes in is shorted.”
The war in Ukraine has caused grain prices to rise. Muegge said rising prices for commodities like grains, corn and soybeans work in his favor up to a point. He can sell last year’s soybean and corn crop and break even. But it also backfires because all those other inputs cost more, including fertilizer.
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“We got a lot of fertilizer out of Russia, and it stopped,” said Andy Tauer, executive director of public policy for the Indiana Farm Bureau.
Tauer and Muegge agree that Ukraine is just the latest issue to impact Indiana farmers.
In 2019, a major packing plant fire thwarted the beef industry, then COVID arrived, followed by the recent global supply chain downturn. All of these events, as well as natural disasters like hurricanes, affect Indiana farmers.
Muegge called these problems “pinpricks” that were already bleeding many farms. The war in Ukraine, he said, was a “gunshot” for farms.
“So it’s not just one thing,” Muegge said. “It’s all of those things that happened, and what I would call once in a decade, once in a lifetime, an event that happened now, three, four years in a row.”
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They believe that farmers will face the error of all these national and global events for months and years to come.
“We’ll get through 2022,” Tauer said, “but 2023 is already shaping up to be a challenge as well.”
The next concern for farmers is how this will influence the future of local farms. Muegge’s biggest fear is not having enough to pass on to the next generation.