GROWERS finishing up harvest know the immediate ramification of high fuel prices. But high fuel prices will reach much further this year than just the cost of filling a combine or tractor tank. Several companies have announced price increases, and economists estimate deeper cost troubles.

Natural gas prices are expected to spike this winter with the Midwest taking a big hit. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that natural gas prices may be 71% higher than they were last year, according to Wally Tyner, Purdue University ag economist. The big share of the price increase is due to overall higher prices, and a small portion is due to the expectation that this winter will be colder than last year’s. The only good news, Tyner says, is that gas supplies are adequate and there will be no shortage.

BASF plans to increase prices for its U.S. product lines, including crop protection products. BASF CEO Klaus Peter Loebbe says the company has taken “significant actions over the last few years to drive down costs,” but the recent record increases in feedstock and energy costs require price changes for the company to maintain a healthy business.

Syngenta Crop Protection has announced an average 3% price increase for its 2006 crop protection products. Rob Neill, Syngenta Crop Protection marketing, says the company has resisted price increases for five years. But the tremendous spike in prices of many raw materials including natural gas has forced the company to bump prices to its customers. Neill says that the increase in the price of crop protection products will be modest compared to price increases for other ag products such as fertilizer.

Dow Chemical Company CEO Andrew Liveris released a statement saying that the company has “no choice but to ask our customers to pay more for our products in order to safeguard their supplies in the future.” He credited the “persistently high price of oil and natural gas, exacerbated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina” for causing the need to increase product prices.

DuPont also plans a price increase for its products. The chemical company reported that every $10 increase in the price of oil adds $2.6 billion to the U.S. chemical industry’s variable costs, according to Dow Jones Newswires.