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Central Florida farmers' fertilizer, fuel and feed costs soar, just like grocery prices

Austin Fuller, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Business News

The price of corn to feed the thousands of chickens at Dale Volkert’s Lake Meadow Naturals in Ocoee, Florida, has doubled from $4 or $4.50 a bushel a year ago to $8 or $9 in May.

That’s just one of the expenses, along with higher fuel prices and other production needs, that are squeezing Central Florida farmers at the same time customers suffer sticker shock at the grocery store.

Farmers say they aren’t pocketing higher profits despite the rising prices in the store aisles.

“The problem is everything goes on a truck somewhere, whether it’s grain or plastic coming to Florida or egg cartons,” said Volkert, who farms poultry for both their eggs and meat. “It’s not the farmer. It’s everything in between.”

The cost of labor, feed, fuel and fertilizer have all gone up for farmers, said James Yarborough, a livestock and natural resources agent for UF/IFAS Extension in the Florida counties of Orange and Seminole.

Those higher bills come as groceries went up 10.8% for the year ending in April, according to the Consumer Price Index. That was the biggest 12-month jump since November 1979-80.

 

Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs jumped 14.3%, the largest annual spike since the year ending in May 1979.

Lake Meadow Naturals, which sells through its farm store as well as to restaurants, has only raised its prices about 6%, Volkert estimated. He said he’s only trying to cover his higher costs.

“We’re trying to help people,” Volkert said.

In Osceola County, Florida, costs are also up at Doc Partin Ranch. Like most Florida beef cattle producers, the ranch south of St. Cloud sells calves to ranches in other states.

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