The specter of short supplies of diesel fuel in Western Kansas as we approach the 2007 wheat harvest is raising its head causing concern among wheat producers and their local fuel suppliers. This is all coming at a time when Western Kansas food producers are anticipating their largest wheat harvest in years.
Kansas Wheat Commissioner Richard Randall, who farms near Scott City, says "I am sincerely concerned about the potential shortage of diesel fuel in the rural areas of Kansas."
Randall cites an announcement that a refined fuel terminal just North of Scott City will be closing down the availability of diesel fuel to that area. That means that local distributors in Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado will be needing to travel at least four to six hours one-way by truck to transport fuel for their local customers.
In a letter to the office of Kansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson, Randall wrote, "This is the time of year that diesel fuel consumption peaks because of agriculture. We need to know that there will be adequate supplies for farming operations as well as the upcoming wheat harvest needs. It appears that the (fuel) markets are wishing for even more profitability by short supplying the rural areas and concentrating on the urban gasoline sales. This does upset the 'fuel system'. Diesel fuel is needed as well as regular gasoline."
Communicating the concerns to the staff members of Senator Sam Brownback and Senator Pat Roberts and 1st District Representative Jerry Moran, Dana Peterson, Producer Policy Specialist with Kansas Wheat, said, "There are indications that diesel supplies have been very tight in the past few weeks because of refinery bottlenecks."
Scott Cooperative Association General Manager Gary Friesen wrote to Randall that, "This issue has become more important to the members of the Scott Cooperative as we have had to deal with the increasing frequency of shortages of product at the Scott City fuel terminal as well as allocations of product. Our concern, however, is that demand for gasoline and the opportunities presented to refiners to maximize gasoline profits, will supercede the need of the Western Kansas agricultural producer to have diesel supplies available at the most crucial times."
Pointing out that this is a state-wide issue, Friesen commented, "To allow shortages of diesel fuel in the agricultural sector, motivated strictly for profit incentives, would be both short-sighted and potentially catastrophic, not only for the economy of the State of Kansas but also for the nation's economy."
Peterson told the Kansas Congressional members there are some indications that the bottleneck may be heading toward recovery by mid-June; however, wheat harvest in some parts of Kansas will have started by then.