Corey Rosenbusch Testifies on Fertilizer Markets and Solutions to House Committee on Agriculture

“If there is one thing you take away from my comments, it is this: Fertilizer is a globally traded commodity, subject to international pressures and geopolitical events.” This emphatic statement was made by TFI president and CEO Corey Rosenbusch while testifying at a House Committee on Agriculture hearing on February 28th. The hearing, titled “Uncertainty, Inflation, Regulations: Challenges for American Agriculture,” lasted nearly 5 hours and focused heavily on market dynamics of the fertilizer industry and pressures currently facing the U.S. agricultural sector at large.

When asked what Congress can do to help ensure farmers continue to have access to a stable source of fertilizers, Rosenbusch pointed to the need for regulatory certainty as many factors affecting the fertilizer market are out of the control of Congress. Those factors include the international pressures and geopolitical events mentioned by Corey early in his testimony.

Prime examples of those factors are sanctions on Belarus, which supplies 20% of the world’s potash supply; China, which is a major exporter of fertilizers, but has imposed restrictions on fertilizer exports; and Russia, which has historically provided 20% of global fertilizer supplies as the world’s largest fertilizer exporter. “Domestic production of fertilizer accounts for only 7% of global production and 90% of all fertilizer usage happens outside of the United States,” Rosenbusch explained. “Geopolitical events have been the biggest disrupter to fertilizer markets in recent years.”

Energy policy is another area where Congress can provide relief by ensuring that fertilizer producers have an abundant and affordable supply of natural gas. Rosenbusch highlighted the fact that when Russia restricted much of Europe’s natural gas supply last year, approximately 70% of European nitrogen fertilizer production shutdown, leading to additionally market volatility.

The market news wasn’t all bad, though. Rosenbusch pointed out that in recent months fertilizer input costs have come down. European nitrogen plants have restarted as natural gas prices have moderated following a mild winter and China has been slowly exporting more fertilizer.

After providing the above examples of factors influencing fertilizer markets that are out of the control of Congress, Rosenbusch circled back to the regulatory certainty needed by the industry that Congress can provide, explaining that fertilizer production facilities are capital intensive and typically cost between $1-$4 billion to build. Rosenbusch also cited listing potash and phosphate as critical minerals, permitting reform to streamline long delayed fertilizer projects, focusing on USDA conservation programs that empower agronomists and certified crop advisors to help farmers with nutrient management, and a focus on supply chain bottlenecks through improving rail service and promoting driver recruitment and retention.

Click HERE to view the full recording of the House Committee on Agriculture hearing.

Fertilizer as Food Security

The world is facing a serious food shortage crisis. With the global population of 8 billion expected to grow by at least 30% over the next few decades, we need more food than ever before. Food security is a crucial issue for governments around the world—a growing population means more people need more food, but the amount of arable land available is not increasing. The United Nations states that there is currently a world food crisis in which over 1 billion people are facing starvation. Without further action, the crisis could worsen and possibly lead to a global catastrophe. Fertilizer is key to solving this problem. Just as it has been for thousands of years, fertilizer remains one of the most important elements in agriculture today.

Due to increased efficiency in farming with modern fertilizer use, we are seeing a new era in resource management. Fertilizer application is a key part of the food production system, helping make food more plentiful and affordable. It also provides farmers with better yields on the same land area or allows them to produce more food per acre with fewer resources such as water, seed and labor.

The responsible use of fertilizers helps increase the productivity of agricultural land by reducing soil nutrient depletion, increasing plant growth, and improving crop yields. For example, nitrogen use in the United States has increased corn yields from an average of about 40 bushels per acre in 1950 to around 175 bushels per acre in 2021. Exponential increases like this only serve to support the idea that fertilizer is an essential step towards solving issues of food security.

The world food crisis is an immense issue that requires attention and action. Fertilizer is indeed key to solving this problem, as it helps to increase crop yields and improve soil quality. This can provide much-needed nutrients to the soil, increasing food production and helping to alleviate the issue of starvation. We must work together to find sustainable solutions that can help to increase fertilizer production and access to it, as well as to educate people on the importance of fertilizer and how to use it effectively. By doing this, we can help to ensure that everyone has access to the food they need.

A Sustainable Future with 4R Advocates

Last week, TFI congratulated the 2023 4R Advocates. These are outstanding farmers and retailers, whose continued dedication towards soil management serves as evidence of the safe and beneficial use of fertilizer. The 4Rs, using the right source at the right rate, right time, and right place, allow for better nutrient use by plants, leading to greater crop productivity, reduced environmental losses, and greater farm profits. All of these are needed to ensure farming can be sustainable.

Sustainable farming is important because it helps to ensure the ongoing availability of healthy food sources, while preserving our environment and protecting the planet’s natural resources. Sustainability in agriculture is made up of three pillars: protecting the environment and natural resources, economic profitability and viability, and provision of ecosystem services necessary for farmers and society. 4R farming practices are a sustainable farming practice that helps to reduce the use, but increase the efficiency, of fertilizers. Using 4R practices, along with other sustainable farming practices, also helps to improve air, water, and soil quality, while promoting the long-term health of our planet.

4R is a sustainable farming practice that focuses on producing food in a way that is both environmentally friendly and economically viable. It is an integrated system for nutrient management that helps to conserve natural resources without decreasing food production. 4R also helps to maintain healthy soils by ensuring soils contain adequate nutrients for crops and prevents nutrient depletion that can be taxing on soil microbes. Other sustainable farming practices include reduced tillage, crop rotation, integrated pest management, and the use of cover crops. By using 4R practices, farmers can create a more efficient and profitable agricultural system that is better for the environment.

4R advocates are incredibly important, as they work not only to ensure that our food sources are healthy and viable for future generations but also to show both the public and policymakers that fertilizer can play a safe and responsible role in crop production. 4R advocates strive to reduce the environmental impact of fertilizer, increase yields, and improve the livelihoods of farmers and the health of their communities. They also work to ensure that the land and water are managed in an efficient and sustainable manner, as well as promote access to healthy, and nutritious food. Sustainable farming advocates are essential to ensure that our food systems are resilient and able to withstand the challenges of climate change and other environmental pressures.

More information on 4R farming can be found here

The Primary Importance of Secondary Macronutrients

When discussing plant nutrition, most people are familiar with NPK. We see this content prominently displayed on bags of fertilizer at retail locations. But macronutrients for plants goes beyond NPK. Calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S) make up secondary macronutrients for plants. These nutrients are as important as NPK, but are needed in slightly lower quantities.

Calcium helps to support a plant’s structural integrity, regulate metabolic processes, and take part in various signaling pathways that are critical for successful growth. Ca plays a vital role in root development and cell wall integrity, helping to reduce soil erosion and aid plants in harsh conditions. Ca also helps to regulate the uptake of other essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Ca works within the plant to produce enzymes, hormones, and other metabolic elements, which are necessary for sustained growth.

Magnesium is an essential nutrient for plant growth and development. It plays a key role in photosynthesis by helping with the formation of chlorophyll. Mg also works to regulate the uptake and movement of other important nutrients within the plant. By helping plants resist stress from drought, high temperatures, and diseases, Mg ensures plants will be able to reach their best potential growth and yield.

Sulfur assist plants in creating three essential amino acids necessary for building proteins: methionine, cysteine, and cystine. S is also involved in the formation of chlorophyll, which is used in photosynthesis. Low sulfur levels can lead to stunted growth, yellowing of leaves, and poor fruit production. On the other hand, too much sulfur can damage the roots and leaves, and can even cause the death of the plant.

So how do you know if any of your plants need Ca, Mg, or S supplements?

Calcium and magnesium deficiency, for example, are common soil issues often caused by conditions like poor drainage, soil acidity, or low levels of organic matter. Adding the right type of fertilizer can combat these issues.

Soil testing is key. Taking a sample of the soil and having the chemical components analyzed will tell you what nutrients may be too high or low for the plants you are trying to grow. By consulting an agronomist at your local fertilizer retailer, you will be able to select the best soil nutrient to meet your planting needs.