High diesel prices especially hard on farmers

The rising cost of diesel in Nova Scotia has been a tough blow to some farmers in the province.

Three days ago, diesel prices were just over $2 a liter, but two increases through the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board’s interrupter clause, and one regularly scheduled adjustment have increased the price to a new minimum of $2.36 in Zone 1 (Halifax).

“That’s a huge concern to any sector of agriculture,” says Tim Marsh, the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.

That’s because petroleum products play a big role in the day-to-day operation of a farm, he said.

“It’s not just diesel, it’s things like herbicides that we need to use for weed control, pest control. A lot of those are petroleum-based, so they tend to be inflated in price, as this year. Hydraulic oil, engine oil, all those things have increased significantly in the last year.”

He says it’s to the point where it might make more sense financially for some farmers to not work their fields this year.

“They’re going to take a serious look at least at how they put the crops in, and what manageable practices they were going to do,” said Marsh.

A professor of food distribution and policy, Sylvain Charlebois, says farmers can’t pass the costs up the food chain.

“Because they are price takers, that’s the nature of farming,” said Charlebois.

That means those costs are absorbed by the farmer and could be passed onto the consumer by retailers in the form of higher food prices.

Some industry experts are calling on the federal government for help.

“We need policies to help our farmers’ cash flow, so exemptions from tariffs, some breaks with the carbon tax,” Charlebois says.

Moves that would help the pocketbooks of those in the agriculture industry as they contemplate whether or not to ramp up for another growing season.

The NS Utility and Review Board will invoke the interrupter clause Friday night for diesel only.

The board says it’s due to significant shifts in the market price of diesel oil. They don’t say whether the price will be going up or down.

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