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Struggling farmers face another challenge with diesel shortage

Farmer Fuel
Three generations of the Heinrich family of farmers in front of a combine that Tim, right, says can go through 150 gallons of diesel fuel on a busy day. Heinrich family

Just weeks after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order to continue drought relief efforts for farmers in that state, reports of what some are calling a devastating diesel shortage and the higher prices that come with it are rolling in to accompany farmers into the already harsh winter season.

“I’m harvesting soybeans that aren’t even worth harvesting right now,” Oklahoma farmer Tim Heinrich said last month.

Heinrich, who runs a 3,000-acre operation in north central Oklahoma, says a modern combine like the one he uses typically needs about 150 gallons a day to get the job done — a job that might ultimately cost him more in fuel than he will get back in sales. And the combine is just one piece of the operation affected by diesel costs.

“Most of us have diesel pickups that we use to feed cows with all winter long, all the trucks hauling the crops to and from the farm, all of our farm sprayers, our combines and our tractors,” said Heinrich, who also serves on the Garfield County Conservation District board of directors. “All of it is at the mercy of the rising cost of diesel.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its Short Term Energy Outlook in November that diesel prices were nearly 50% higher than they were a year earlier, and reserves were at the lowest level since 1951.

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