Input supplies tight, costs up as farmers face another season


Staff writer

According to ag specialists, supplies of all kinds of nitrogen fertilizers, as well as phosphorus and potassium fertilizers, are tight throughout the U.S. and Kansas.

The reasons for this are varied. Much of the U.S. manufacture of nitrogen has shut down because of sharp increases in natural gas costs, lower-cost foreign competition, and domestic environmental regulations.

Dale Leikam, KSU nutrient management specialist, predicts that lost domestic nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing likely will never come back even at current high prices. Strict environmental regulations and volatile natural gas prices make the risk too great.

More than 50 percent of nitrogen fertilizer used in the U.S. now is being imported, making farmers more and more dependent on foreign sources. At the same time, worldwide demand increases, especially in India and China, affecting the price and supply in Kansas.

According to local crop production managers, there is plenty of fertilizer available for spring planting, but phosphate fertilizers could be in tight supply by fall.

"There'll either be a shortage or pricing that is outrageous," one manager said.

Another manager predicted the price of phosphate could triple by fall to $900-$1,000 a ton. He said the price of nitrogen has remained steady since the first of the year.

The price of Roundup, a popular herbicide, is double that of a year ago. In light of these increasing costs along with the increasing cost of fuel, feed, seeds, and equipment, the high prices farmers are receiving for their grain must continue if they hope to remain in the black.