Farmers are looking at a potentially grim picture as they begin harvesting their crops this fall because of higher fuel costs.
Spiking diesel prices will mean more to harvest corn and beans. Higher propane prices will mean higher drying costs and a disruption of shipping through the Port of New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina could mean higher transportation costs for farmers.
Add to all that projections of near-record yields, which are driving down the prices farmers will get for their grain.
Gordon Thomsen, who farms near Olin, said he can't begin harvesting and then stop because he can't afford to pay for the diesel.
"It's an added cost on the bottom line. I use so many gallons, no matter what. I just write the check when I need fuel," Thomsen said.
Doug Boland, who farms west of Williamsburg, paid $2.20 a gallon the last time his on-farm fuel tank was filled. Last year, he paid $1.18 a gallon.
A typical farm requires 4 gallons of diesel a year per acre to produce corn and 3 gallons a year per acre to produce soybeans, according to William Edwards, an Iowa State University Extension Service economist.
According to Boland's numbers, a farmer will spend an average of $8,800 for fuel to produce 1,000 acres of corn this year.
Wayne Blackford, who farms north of Marion, said farmers "can't do a whole lot" to change fuel consumption and reduce fuel costs.
"It just costs more," he said. "We cut tillage years ago."