California aircraft owners and farmers cope with rising fuel costs
Higher crop prices help ease the burdenBy Christine Souza
With demand for aerial applications increasing this year, farmers who rely on agricultural aircraft operators for crop treatments and seeding will face fuel surcharges on top of the regular fees they pay, as prices rise for both aviation gasoline (or avgas) for piston engines and for Jet A fuel used to power turbine engines.
Rick Richter, owner and operator of a small aerial application business in Maxwell, said he passes the added cost of fuel on to growers in the form of a surcharge, which he called a common practice. This has occurred with limited complaints, he said, because rice growers have been experiencing a strong price for their crop.
"It is a lot easier for growers to pay that surcharge with higher prices. What kind of challenge would it be if the prices were low?" said Richter, owner and operator of Richter Aviation Inc. "It is tough to stay in business if they are not going to use our services."
Ninety-five percent of Richter's business is taking care of Northern California rice acreage. Last year, he seeded and treated more than 33,000 acres of rice, including his own 450 acres. He also treats wheat, alfalfa, row crops and tree crops.
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About Christine Souza
Christine Souza is assistant editor of Ag Alert at the California Farm Bureau Federation. The CFBF is a non-governmental, nonprofit, voluntary membership California corporation whose purpose is to protect and promote agricultural interests throughout the state of California and to find solutions to the problems of the farm, the farm home and the rural community. Farm Bureau is California's largest farm organization, comprised of 53 county Farm Bureaus currently representing about 76,500 members in 56 counties.