Fertilizer costs could be lower for Ohio grower-shippers in 2010, but other input costs could rise.

Fuel costs should be about simi-lar to last year, and land rents for other growers will likely be about the same in 2010, said Don Bettinger, president of Swanton, Ohio-based Bettinger Farms Inc.

Where grower-shippers are see-ing some much-needed relief is in fertilizer costs, Bettinger said.
“That’s going to help,” Bettinger said. “They have quite an impact, and they’re down about half this year.”

Unfortunately, he said, in mid-May Bettinger Farms was having a hard time taking advantage of the lower fertilizer costs thanks to heavy rains that were delaying plantings in the Buckeye State.

“You’ve got to get it in the ground before you can worry about this,” he said.

While fertilizer prices are lower this year, the cost of wirebound boxes and other packaging is higher, Bettinger said.

“They seem to go up every year,” Bettinger said of packaging costs.

Packaging costs for Ohio growers could be up 10% from last year, said Loren Buurma, co-owner of Willard, Ohio-based Buurma Farms Inc.

Fuel costs also will be higher than in 2009, he said. Fortunately for Buurma Farms and other companies, demand for locally grown continues to go up, meaning that that growers can keep product closer to home, thereby saving on fuel costs.

Buurma Farms, for instance, which ships to Boston and Miami and all points in between, plans to keep more of its product in the Midwest this summer, Buurma said.

With increased demand for farm equipment among Ohio grain growers this year, equipment prices are higher this summer, he said.

Chemical prices, however, should be comparable to 2009, Buurma said.

Fertilizer prices will likely continue on a slightly downward trend that began in 2009, said Scott Michael, president of Urbana, Ohio-based Michael Farms Inc.

In packaging, the cost of wood crates has leveled off, reusable plastic containers are similar and containers may be down a little bit from last year, Michael said.

But despite holding steady or even dropping slightly, packaging costs are still very high compared to a few years ago, he said.

“There had been big increases in recent years,” he said.

Fertilizer prices may be coming down a bit, but it’s all relative, said Ken Holthouse, general manager of North Fairfield, Ohio-based Doug Walcher Farms.

“The prices goes up a lot faster than it goes down,” he said.

“It’s relaxed a little bit, but it’s nothing like when it went up. It was going crazy a couple of years ago.”

Cardboard also is up, Holthouse said. Fortunately, the company’s good partnership with Georgia Pacific enabled it to pre-book product before the rate increase kicked in.