Affordable fuel critical for agriculture

Many farms are rapidly moving toward green technologies and fuel efficiency. Yet to make that transition, we need access to affordable diesel and gas to make those green investments.

Yes, you heard that right. We need access to affordable fossil fuels to ultimately become greener farmers.

That’s because we still need energy to grow our crops, power our equipment, and ship our products — that’s just a fact. Energy accounts for nearly 30 percent of intermediate production costs on Washington farms, and when inputs rise, farms have less to spend on new technology. And it’s not just direct fuel costs that affect our available capital. Fertilizers that are key to crops also fluctuate with the cost of oil. In fact, fuel costs can be traced up and down the supply chain so even little increases can be magnified across inputs.

In times of lower input costs, farmers can invest in creating sustainable energy solutions that are also good for their business. Many Farm Bureau members are cutting costs and drastically reducing their energy bills by investing in the latest produce storage systems, some of which are controlled by computers. These systems that keep their products fresh for market and efficiently use electricity, which lowers their overall input costs and emissions.

These are significant capital investments. All investments are risky but that risk can be mitigated when market conditions are stable and input costs, principally fuel, are affordable.

The Washington State legislature and other states are considering policies next year like cap and trade and carbon taxes that, while well-intended, will ultimately lead to increased fuel costs. As stewards of the land, farmers agree that we must protect our environment so we can produce good, healthy food. Yet policymakers must consider the unintended consequences of such policies that increase fuel costs for farmers and prevent investment in innovative technologies that may ultimately bring down emissions in the long-run.

To learn more and get involved on these issues, I encourage all farmers to visit to get engaged and help keep fuel prices in Washington affordable and predictable.

Mike LaPlant is president of the Washington State Farm Bureau.

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