Input costs have steadily risen again this year and the looming threat of a spike in diesel prices has put some New Jersey growers and suppliers on edge.

“What seems to be sneaking up on us is the cost of energy,” said Bill Nardelli, president of Nardelli Bros. Inc., Cedarville, N.J.

“The cost of diesel fuel and oil is kind of sneaking up. It’s kind of crept up and you’re not seeing a lot of media coverage of it, but we’re seeing it in the cost of doing business.”

Nardelli said rising energy costs are cutting into growers’ profitability and may become a more serious threat as the summer progresses.

Jerry Frecon, agricultural agent at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in Clayton, agreed all energy-related costs and others have risen this year.

“All the costs of energy, the cost of materials and supplies for packing,” he said. “That’s all increased as a result of the economy.”

Frecon said the rise has hurt every aspect of the business except for the availability of labor.

“There is a lot of labor out there looking for jobs on farms,” he said.

Art Galletta, president and co-owner of Atlantic Blueberry Co. Inc., Hammonton, N.J., said only some of his costs have gone up this year.

“Carton prices are a little higher,” he said. “Every year it seems like inputs costs have gone up, whether we want it to or not.”

Tom Sheppard, president of Eastern Fresh Growers Inc., Cedarville, said that packaging costs are going up at a burdensome rate.

“It is already up by 8%, and they are talking about another 8% rise,” he said, saying the cost of paper is also up.

Ben Casella, field representative for the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Trenton, said that even with some inputs rising in cost this year, the extreme highs of petroleum-related products are a far cry from the levels they hit two summers ago.

“The fertilizer is down. It’s not at the extreme highs that it was in comparison to the previous couple of years. It’s down a little, but overall everything else is up,” he said.

Casella assessed that input cost are back to a manageable level for growers.

“Those spikes in the fertilizer and the fuel, nobody can plan for, so they are kind of hard to deal with,” he said.