HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. — Many of the nation’s farmers, including those in central Indiana, are facing the harsh realities brought on by the rising costs of food production.

From surging fuel costs to higher prices for seeds, fertilizer, and chemicals, all the way to supply chain issues, the agricultural industry is being dealt a tough hand this season.

On Monday, data from AAA showed Indiana’s average price of diesel fuel once again reached a record high of $5.887 per gallon, topping the national record high average, recorded on Sunday, of $5.771 per gallon.

One year ago, the average cost of diesel in Indiana was $3.313, according to AAA.

While pain at the pump is being felt by everyone, farmers, who rely on mostly diesel-powered machinery to make their living and feed people across the nation, are especially feeling the burden.

“Everything has pretty much either doubled, tripled, or quadrupled — seed, fertilizer, fuel,” said Hendricks County farmer, Richie Wyeth, whose family owns Wyeth Farms.

Wyeth, a fourth generation farmer on the century farm that’s been in his family since 1919 in North Salem, said they have always had at least one, but sometimes upwards of five to 10 pieces of equipment running in a given day. Their family produces corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and beef on the land they farm, which is about 3,000 acres in size.

As Wyeth stood next to a tractor Monday, he said several years ago, they filled it for about $300. Multiply that times five, and he said that’s about what it costs to fuel it right now.

“We burn a tank of that a day in one piece of equipment,” said Wyeth. “We get in 6,000 gallons of fuel every half. We go through 12,000 gallons of fuel really easy, sometimes more, sometimes less.”

The 12,000 figure accounts for fueling the equipment needed to put crops in the ground and taking them out. It doesn’t even include the cost of fuel in the semi-trailers, also used in their farming operation.

“There’s just a lot of fuel, a lot of repair costs, just a lot of unfigured costs,” said Wyeth.

While commodity prices have rallied this spring, rising input costs of things like fertilizer, seed, pesticides, energy, machinery and other items continue putting a squeeze on farmers and have left many with a sense of uncertainty for what their profits could look like this year.

“Our other inputs are higher than we’ve ever seen them from fertilizer and nitrogen especially. We saw a 300% increase in what we paid for anhydrous from last year to this year,” said Hancock County farmer, Jon Sparks.

On top of everything else, Wyeth said getting parts for the equipment has also been especially difficult due to supply chain issues and it’s getting more costly to even keep the machinery running.

“That piece of equipment, it doesn’t last forever. It takes a lot for inputs every year and updating equipment. You take a $100,000 tractor, now it’s three to $400,000,” Wyeth said. “We don’t have just one of those, we have three, four, five, six of those, plus whatever piece of equipment it’s pulling is much as whatever is pulling it.”

“We’re like any other business; when you add to our expenses, you ultimately take away from what our profit at the end of the year is,” said Sparks, who also serves on the Board of Directors for the Indiana Farm Bureau.

That profit, for people like Sparks, who are owner-operators of their farms, is what they’ll be able to take home to support their family, so any extra expense incurred, be it fuel, fertilizer, or whatever else is being impacted by inflation, would come off on the tail end.

“It’s like reducing it from someone who works a job that makes a set salary,” Sparks explained. He knows the impacts of inflation are being faced by families across the country and said, that also includes families of farmers.

“We’re consumers too, along with them, and are experiencing some of the same issues in providing for our families,” said Sparks.

Wyeth said, they were fortunate to pre-pay for some input expenses and catch older costs, but he fears for what the next year will bring when it comes to crop prices — a financial hit he doesn’t believe they’ll be able to avoid.

“Especially going into 2023 crop, it’s gonna be a real challenge because now everything is so high. There’s not that opportunity to catch any lower prices. I mean, we’re stuck with what we have and you pretty much hope for good grain prices whenever it’s time to get rid of it and unfortunately, we’ve just got to pay as we go,” said Wyeth.

“We get a price for our product based on supply and demand in crop situations from what the whole country produces, not just what’s out our back door,” said Sparks. “So we don’t necessarily have a way to just pass on the extra costs and automatically raise our prices.”

Both farmers said they’re also doing their best not to punish the consumer for rising inflation costs. Right now at Wyeth Farms, they’re still selling some cuts that are cheaper in the stores.

“Inflation is one thing but robbing someone is another in my opinion,” he said. “Just understand we’re doing as good as we can and look up a local farm to get your produce or your beef or chicken or pork.”

While wheat prices have skyrocketed due to disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s tough to say whether they’ll yield bounty for American farmers grappling with all of the other expenses still increasing.

When all said and done, while the status of the economy right now is creating uncertainties for many, the risk of the business isn’t something farmers are stranger to. They’re hoping for a decent return and remaining as optimistic as possible, even as the rising input costs are making for a lot tighter margins than they were hoping for.

“We plan for normal and if it’s better than that, that’s good. If not, we usually figure out a way to make things work,” said Sparks.