Farm-flation as costs double

·3 min read

If inflation is making a dent in your spending power, consider Lambton County’s farmers.

They’re finding the cost of their most basic inputs have doubled from last year.

“The cost of everything has increased,” said local dairy farmer Kevin Forbes, who owns and operate Forbesvue Farms with his wife Melissa on Waterworks Road in Lambton County. His biggest increases in expenses have been fuel, feed, and fertilizer as inflation has hit his operation where he has a herd of 200 cows which produces 7,000 litres of milk a day.

The cost of fuel has taken a huge jump. In the first seven months of 2021, he spent $25,000 in fuel; that cost has jumped to $49,000 over the same time period in 2022.

Another huge increase has been fertilizer, which has jumped from $585 a tonne last year to $1,075 a tonne now. Forbes said this is not only due to inflation but tariffs put on Russia due to the war in the Ukraine.

The tarriff, he says, “didn’t hurt Russia. It hurt the consumer instead.” The United States are pulling off these tariffs, something which Canada has failed to do as of yet, says Forbes.

The price of feed for his cows is also rising. Canola meal is added to a dairy cow’s diet to provide protein. Last year it was at $514 a tonne, and has increased to $617 a tonne. He feeds his herd of 200 head, a half a tonne a day.

Forbes says he can find some ways to save by managing the amount he uses for fertilizer. But reducing his fertilizer in trying to save on costs, can mean lower yields and less crop to sell.

While inflation has affected his expenses, crop prices have also climbed. Forbes says the soybean crop shows promise, but it needs some rain. The area has seen a lack of rain so far this summer leaving much of the area with drought-like conditions.

Many dairy operations try to grow as much feed as it can for its herd. If the yields are lower this season, there will be an increase in cost to fill the gap, he said.

All those increases mean there is less cash to spend on things like tractors and new farm pickups. And when Lambton County’s agriculture industry turns out over $582.72 Million in total sales - a number estimated by the Lambton Federation of Agriculture in 2016, decreased spending has spinoffs in the community.

Even if there is a little cash left to spend, like everyone else, farmers are facing supply issues. In Forbes’ case, he ordered fans for his barns. They were suppose to be to him by last May but he has just got them installed. The fans help keep the cows cool and comfortable and will affect his overall milk production.

Most tractor dealers have not seen a new 2022 piece of equipment on their lots. New tractors next year are expected to go up by $40,000 next year.

The increase in interest rates will also have an effect on some farmers, said Forbes, as the dairy farming is capital heavy and many farmers need to carry debt to finance their operations

And while the economics of farming are difficult, Forbes says farmers are resilient.

“We will continue to produce a high quality product,” said Forbes. Many of the larger operators are a little more progressive, as they look to ways to be more efficient.

He added if this keeps up, there could be some farmers who choose to exit the industry.

“There is a high level of stress in dairy farming,” he said.

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent