Letter to IL Corn Growers about Fertilizer Prices
Dear Illinois Corn Growers Association Members:
Farmers all over the state have struggled with fertilizer prices and availability this fall and winter. On our farm, we fall-applied anhydrous on more acres than we typically would, just to be sure we could get nitrogen in the ground. This is something we did not want to do. Over the past few years, we’ve transitioned to more in season and side dress applications that fit our agronomic, stewardship, and economic goals. However, the uncertainty in the market forced us to change our approach - we saw no other viable options. We here at Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) never want farmers to be in this position again and will continue to work hard on long term solutions to this complicated problem.
ICGA leaders and staff have been engaged on this issue since the summer, when we saw prices starting to rise quickly. The problem is global in nature, with supply chain and energy disruptions causing fertilizer plants to shut down and countries to restrict exports. Over the last two years in the US, fertilizer manufacturers have sought and received protections from the Department of Commerce which will raise the price of imported phosphate and UAN. This all is occurring during a period of high commodities prices and increasing demand for fertilizers. It truly is a perfect storm for farmers and ag retailers who are caught in a situation they have no control over. We are working to ensure that this never happens again.
Here is a short overview of just some of the activities your leaders and staff have undertaken on your behalf:
- We engaged directly with fertilizer manufacturers, like CF Industries, to illustrate the impact of high prices on farmers and find opportunities for them to help protect their end customers. We held “calls to action” among our members, in which 107 farmers participated, so they could tell the manufacturers their own story.
- On the legislative front, we have helped educate our congressional delegation about the issue, particularly those serving on the House Agriculture, and Ways and Means Committees, but also our Senators.
- Through the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), our partner in DC, we’ve helped raise broad awareness of the problem. I signed on to a letter with other corn states to the Mosaic Company, asking them to withdraw their petition for tariffs on imported phosphate. NCGA has joined a legal challenge to allow more imports of potassic fertilizers and helped fund an analysis of the US phosphatic fertilizer market.
- In cooperation with other corn states and with a grant from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB), we helped fund an analysis of the US nitrogenous fertilizer market by ag economists at Texas A&M. We will continue to work with your ICMB to leverage checkoff funds to develop new education materials and risk management tools in cooperation with the University of Illinois’ FarmDoc team of ag economists. The ICMB and ICGA have also cooperated to bring you up-to-date industry insights from Josh Linville, Director of Fertilizer for StoneX, at our annual meeting and through webinars like this.
- We have started discussions with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and his staff about the legal tools we may have to address this highly consolidated market and are helping to coordinate other states’ Attorneys General to all work together to find durable solutions to this systemic problem.
Although this list is not exhaustive, I hope you get a feeling for how much time and energy has gone into this issue. Sadly, I do not expect to see any major reversal in the trend, short of global prices beginning to soften, soon. We firmly believe that the best approach to the problem is a long-term approach. We will continue to work to create more competition in the fertilizer marketplace, protect farmers from predatory contracting, increase fertilizer market transparency, and develop tools for farmers to manage their fertilizer risks.