Gas Prices Impact Vermonters on Many Levels

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(Host) The price of gas is now well above two dollars a gallon. Rising prices are a challenge for some, a hardship for others and business as usual for many.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Gas prices are reaching new highs just as Vermont farmers prepare for spring planting and another growing season. But Louise Calderwood of the Agency of Agriculture says the pinch farmers are feeling goes far beyond the cost of a tractor fill-up.

(Calderwood) “We need to think of it as increased cost of petroleum. While that does impact the cost of fuel, it also impacts the price of fertilizer, the price of plastic used to cover bunks and wrap stored feed. So it impacts the dairy farmer and all of our farmers many different ways beyond just the cost of fuel.”

(Zind) Calderwood says some farmers can pass the increased expense along to consumers. But those producing commodities like milk will have to find ways to cut costs. At her dairy farm, Calderwood says she plans to cut back on the use of fertilizers. She says one effect of the higher costs for gasoline is more farmers may use genetically modified herbicide resistant seeds because it’s less expensive to kill weeds with herbicides than by repeated tillings with a tractor.

There’s another group of Vermonters increasingly feeling the effects of rising gasoline prices. Karen Lafayette is with the Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council

(Lafayette) “Certainly it’s no question that an increase in transportation costs for low-income working Vermonters could place an undue burden on them.”

(Zind) Lafayette says overall transportation costs account for a large part of a low income family’s budget – up to twenty-five percent for those living in rural areas.

Vermont used to have a tax credit for low income people to recoup some of the sales tax paid on gasoline and other products. Lafayette says it would help low income Vermonters to have that system once again. Overall, though, despite the rising prices, state figures show gasoline consumption was up sixteen percent this March over March of last year.

And most commuters seem unfazed by the high gas prices. According to the Vermont Department of Transportation, the number of people signing up to carpool has been stagnant for some time. And there are currently no groups or businesses taking advantage of the department’s van pool loan program, which offers interest free loans on vans used for carpooling.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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