By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Inflation hit a four-decade high last month and for Wyoming residents, every purchase at the grocery store or fill-up at the gas station feels more and more daunting.
The Consumer Price Index in March was 8.5% higher than one year ago, the largest increase since December 1981.
Laramie County-based rancher David Wilson said that prices for everything he needs to run his ranch have almost doubled over the last three months.
“With a ranch, not only do things like gas prices affect us, but in addition we have constant overhead when it comes to feeding livestock and the cost of that goes up just like at the grocery store,” Wilson told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “I filled up one of our ranch trucks the other day, and it cost me around $135 to fill up one pickup truck with diesel, which you need on a ranch.”
Wilson said he has heard of other ranchers being forced to sell some equipment just to cover costs to keep the business running. As a rule, farmers and ranchers are frugal people, he said, so increasing costs mean they have to make some tough decisions.
Wilson has not reached the point where he needs to sell equipment, but he said if prices continue to rise in the next six months from now, he might. He said right now, he has to make decisions on when to use certain equipment to save on gas and time trips into Cheyenne to make them as efficient as possible.
“The people out there getting their hands dirty, they just don’t have any quit in them,” Wilson said. “They might get bloodied or bruised, but they always get back out there. That’s what you do.”
University of Wyoming economics professor Anne Alexander told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the inflated prices are caused by several factors, but the main influences are the Russian/Ukrainian war, recovery from the COVID pandemic and a hot housing market.
“The biggest drive of this inflation are energy and food prices, but there might be some hope on the horizon,” Alexander said. “If you break down some of the component parts, while the energy and food prices did increase, some of the other core inflationary elements did not.”
Alexander said she does not believe the United States, or Wyoming, will be see the same rampant inflation as occurred in the 1980s, a period some of the of the highest inflation in the nation’s history.
Alexander added President Joe Biden is not necessarily the one to blame for the sharp increase in costs.
While some of Biden’s sanctions against Russia might have contributed to higher prices, overall, a president does not have much impact, she said.
“I can see why people have that impression, in this case because of the sanctions,” Alexander said. “Perhaps they feel that the spending on the pandemic may have continued to push up prices unnecessarily during the early part of the Biden administration. But in the long run, presidents have very little impact on the economy.”