FINCASTLE, Va. (WFXR) — The high cost of diesel fuel is affecting Virginia farmers. While gasoline prices have dipped in the past six months, diesel prices have remained high.

At this time last year, diesel was selling for $3.23 a gallon. The average price of diesel today is $4.65 a gallon.

“All of our tractors we use in production and harvest run on diesel,” said James Bryant, President of Bryant Orchards. “Our farm vehicles run on diesel fuel. The tractor-trailers that take our product to market run on diesel, so that is an obvious added expense.”

Bryant operates a 200 acre orchard in Fincastle. Most of it is planted in apples, though he also raises peaches.

James Bryant walks through his orchard in Fincastle (Photo: George Noleff)

Some farmers have cut back on planting, others have made cuts elsewhere. Other producers have raised prices, but raising prices is not an option for growers like Bryant.

“We are on the bottom of the food chain,” Bryant said. “We deal with large companies that tell us what the commodity price level is. it is not in our power to set those prices.”

The price of diesel is not the only issue for Bryant. There is also the high price of materials and chemicals used for crop protection. Many of them are petroleum-based.

“For us to grow the quality fruit America demands in the market today, we have to use a lot of crop protection material,” Bryant said while gesturing to a row of trees in his orchard.

Bryant says the cost of crop protection is up 30 to 40 percent over last year.

There some optimism the price of diesel could drop, but petroleum industry experts say it will not happen before early next year.