The Fertilizer Institute’s 4R Advocate Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary, Now Accepting 2021 4R Advocate Nominations

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2020 –The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) 4R Advocate program is celebrating its 10th anniversary starting with the acceptance of nominations for the 2021 4R Advocate awards. This program recognizes farmers and fertilizer retailers for their commitment to sound nutrient stewardship using the 4Rs, or the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, the right time, and in the right place. Using 4R practices most applicable to their operations, farmers improve return on their nutrient inputs and decrease environmental impact.

To date, 90 4R Advocates from 22 states, representing nearly one-quarter million acres have been recognized. They grow crops that include apples, alfalfa, cabbage, collard greens, corn, cotton, hops, peanuts, rice, soybeans, strawberries, tomatoes, and more.

Advocate nominations are due no later than Friday, October 30, 2020. Details, materials, and entry forms for retailers and industry partners to nominate farmers are available online at nutrientstewardship.org/advocates/become-an-advocate/. Entry forms offer easy directions for farmers and retailers to document their efforts to apply the 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles and to chart results. Applicants can also read previous winners’ stories on the same website.

“Fertilizer retailers have long been trusted advisers for farmers. In doing so, they help farmers implement the 4Rs in their businesses year-round,” said Lara Moody, TFI’s Vice President, Stewardship and Sustainability. “From soil testing to pre-plant nutrient planning and in-season nutrient management and harvest, retailers work side by side with farmers to ensure optimal yields, economic return, and sound environmental practices.”

The 4R Advocate program highlights farmers’ partnerships with their retailers or certified agronomists throughout the year and demonstrates to the fertilizer industry, the agricultural community, and policymakers the real-world benefits the 4Rs deliver on the farm and in communities.

The 2021 4R Advocate winners will be announced in mid-December. They will participate in an all-expense-paid trip to the 2021 Commodity Classic, scheduled for March 4 through 6, in San Antonio, Texas. TFI will honor the 4R Advocate growers and nominating retailers during an awards banquet that takes place during the event. Special guests, media, and previous 4R Advocate award winners will also be invited.

As with 4R Advocates before them, the 2021 Advocates will spend the next year supporting TFI-sponsored 4R activities, as well as serve as 4R representatives within their businesses and communities during educational events and special presentations.

Raising awareness and adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship is a top priority for the fertilizer industry. The industry builds 4R awareness among growers and agricultural stakeholders at agricultural trade shows, field days, company visits, and other outreach opportunities.

As 4R Nutrient Stewardship management practices grow in popularity among farmers, the industry has gained additional support for the practices from allied industry groups such as Certified Crop Advisors, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and The Nature Conservancy.

# # #

The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) is the leading voice of the nation’s fertilizer industry. TFI’s membership includes fertilizer producers, wholesalers, retailers and trading firms. TFI serves its members through legislative, educational, technical and economic information and public communication programs. Find more information about TFI online at TFI.org. Learn more about TFI’s nutrient stewardship initiatives at nutrientstewardship.org.

NEPA Updates? TFI Says, “Yes, Please”

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2020 – The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) today applauded the finalization of updates to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as the revisions will ensure federal regulations continue to protect the environment without causing unnecessary negative impact to the business community.

“NEPA has not been updated in 40 years, and TFI has been supportive of these long overdue changes that improve efficiency of the permitting process and ensure continued environmental protection,” said TFI President & CEO Corey Rosenbusch. “Our industry is focused on providing crop nutrients in a way that ensures farmer profitability and minimizes environmental impact so that we can feed a growing world. To do that we also need to grow, and we need the stability and certainty of a regulatory framework that allows us to do so.”

Phosphorous and potassium, two of the three primary plant nutrients, are natural resources derived from mined minerals. Permits to mine these minerals on both private and public lands can take many years to obtain. One of the primary permitting challenges is the uneven application of the provisions of NEPA by states and the federal government. These NEPA updates will add needed clarity to this process and facilitate a more timely and efficient permitting process. 

Over the past 50 years, these regulations have evolved into a legal framework that has unnecessarily stalled or prevented critical phosphate and potash mining projects in the United States. These process-based delay tactics do not reflect environmental impacts and only serve to increase project costs and permitting delays.

“Many of our members have been negatively impacted by outdated NEPA guidelines,” Rosenbusch confirmed. “One producer, whose story is not unique, has spent the last decade and $20 million dollars in pursuit of a permit to grow jobs and instill economic prosperity in a community still reeling from economic stagnation, only to remain unsure of its ultimate fate.

“TFI believes in the original Congressional intent of NEPA, which was to help public officials make decision that are based on the understanding of environmental consequences and to take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment,” Rosenbusch concluded. “These revisions will ensure that federal regulations continue to protect the environment without causing unnecessary negative impacts to the business community and allowing what our members to do what they do best: feed the world.”

#

The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) is the leading voice of the nation’s fertilizer industry. Tracing its roots back to 1883, TFI’s membership includes fertilizer producers, wholesalers, retailers and trading firms. TFI’s full-time staff, based in Washington, D.C., serves its members through legislative, educational, technical, economic information and public communication programs. Find more information about TFI online at TFI.org and follow us on Twitter at @Fertilizer_Inst. Learn more about TFI’s nutrient stewardship initiatives at nutrientstewardship.org and on Twitter at @4rnutrients.

The Fertilizer Industry is Ready for Business

We are living in unprecedented times as the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed our country to a near standstill. But in agriculture, the show must go on – even during a pandemic. As farmers headed back to the fields this spring, the fertilizer industry has been right beside them making sure they have the fertilizer they need, when and where they need it.

To do this requires addressing complex logistical challenges and coordination among all segments of the fertilizer value chain from manufacturing, transportation, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. Any break in this chain could have a negative impact for farmers. The critical work being done throughout the fertilizer industry will ensure food from commodity crops like corn, soy, and wheat to fresh fruits and vegetables will remain on grocery store shelves throughout the coming months.

But being open for business looks a lot different than it did a few months ago. Within one week of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 as a pandemic, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) was instrumental in gaining an “essential business” designation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), meaning TFI members could remain open for business and keep employees on the job with appropriate safety measures put in place. Throughout the fertilizer supply chain, from manufacturing facilities to wholesaler and distribution to retail outlets, the entire fertilizer industry has taken precautions to protect the health and safety of all employees, including providing employees with personal protective equipment, maintaining social distancing, and following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To help alleviate some of the challenges facing the industry, TFI acted swiftly on several other key issues, including the essential services designation by the Department of Homeland Security,  securing personal protective equipment for industry employees from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and adding fertilizer to the list of product exemptions in the Department of Transportation’s Hours of Service emergency declaration.

“The next six to eight weeks will be crucial to our members and their farmer customers as they conduct spring planting activities. The timely delivery of plant nutrients to American farmers is critical to their ability to produce food, fuel, and fiber” said TFI’s President and CEO Corey Rosenbusch. “In order to get plant nutrients to the farm, the fertilizer industry relies on a safe and efficient transportation network, including rail carriers, ports, barges, pipelines, and trucks. In addition, the ability to move products across the border to and from Canada is also an important part of the fertilizer supply chain.”

TFI also led a coalition of more than 40 national food and agriculture organizations in sending a letter to all 50 governors requesting that they incorporate DHS’s guidance declaring fertilizer as an essential service into their state response plans. As the fertilizer industry works across state lines, it was essential to have a consistent approach across all 50 states and local governments.

Throughout this time, TFI is committed to providing resources for fertilizer industry employees who continue to show up to work at fertilizer manufacturing, distribution, and retail facilities across the country. Visit TFI’s COVID-19 Resource Center for more information.

TFI staff is filled with gratitude for the role that our industry’s employees and their farmer customers play in keeping the world’s best food production system up and running throughout this crisis. It’s an honor to serve you.

If you would like to become a supporter of the fertilizer industry, add your name to the list below. Your support will help us communicate on key issues that impact the industry.

 

4R Research Fund – Industry and Academia Partner to Fill Knowledge Gaps

This post is part of a series highlighting work across the fertilizer industry as featured in TFI’s State of the Fertilizer Industry Report. Visit www.fertilizerreport.org to learn more.

 

The concept of 4R Nutrient Stewardship has been used in some form in U.S. agriculture for at least 75 years. And while it has served farmers well over the years, knowledge gaps emerged as agriculture has gotten more precise with the advancement of technology. There is also a lack in understanding the impact of practices and technologies on the environment and crop yields. The fertilizer industry invested in the 4R Research Fund in 2013 to fill these knowledge gaps. To date, the industry has invested more than $8 million in research, which has been leveraged by another $8.8 million from outside sources.

Research based on the source, rate, timing, and placement of fertilizer isn’t new, but through the 4R Research Fund, the research community has come together to solve specific challenges impacting an industry and their farmer customers.

Matt Helmers, professor at Iowa State University and director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, has led 4R Research Fund projects since 2014. His team manages water quality research sites throughout Iowa. They work with farmers, stakeholders, and Extension specialists across the region to examine ways to increase adoption of conservation practices and provide opportunities for people to learn more about these practices.

Helmers and his team are using eight drainage water quality research facilities in the Upper Midwest to examine the impacts of 4R nitrogen management on crop yield, greenhouse gas emissions, drainage water quality, and soil health.

This project, called Nutri-Net, is a prime example of how a knowledge gap identified by the industry is being met by the academic community. Speaking of the project, Helmers said, “I think [Nutri-Net] is a great example of needs that the industry identified working with the academic community to develop research projects that can immediately answer some of those questions.”

The Nutri-Net project was born from the 4R Fund Technical Advisory Committee’s review of the first round of funding, and it became apparent that there were limited studies looking at nitrate leaching, greenhouse gas emissions, and crop yield. The committee, knowing there were multiple water quality drainage research facilities across the Midwest, posed the question of what could be studied.

“The industry engaged the academic community, and said, ‘Can you help us address some of these research gaps?’” Helmers said. “So, the academic community came together, looked at the facilities that we have and what type of research project could we put together in a comprehensive way to help address some of these questions.”

The academic community in the Midwest developed a project proposal for Nutri-Net, which ultimately received funding from the 4R Research Fund and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

“I don’t think that if the academic community had just sat in a room and discussed issues we want to address that we have as comprehensive a project as we have now,” Helmers said. “Nutri-Net is addressing the needs of the industry, looking at the metrics we need to collect, looking at the type of treatments that we need to have done. And the results we have are directly applicable to producers throughout the Midwest. By having that partnership, we were able to develop a research project that fills the gaps and will provide important information for growers throughout the Midwest.”

The results from this type of research, combined with continued progress in precision agriculture that aligns with 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles, provides unlimited potential to improve soil and crop performance.

“I think the, 4R Research Fund has really provided important resources to help address important challenges that are being faced by producers throughout the Midwest and really across the nation and Canada,” Helmers added. “I think this has been a great opportunity for many researchers to be involved with projects that are directly relevant to producers.”

The State of Fertilizer Sustainability

In the past few months, we’ve seen the business community make some major announcements regarding their role in combating large societal challenges. Larry Fink, CEO of the investment firm BlackRock, acknowledged that climate change is “driving a profound reassessment of risk,” and therefore they plan to realign a significant portion of their capital to match their investors’ values.

Energy giant BP announced last week that they seek to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 on not just their operations, but also on the upstream use of their products.

Now, these two companies (and several others like them) might not be who most of us turn toward to solve environmental challenges. Historically, that has fallen to NGOs, government, and academia. However, we live in a changing world that’s being turned on its head.

In January, the public relations firm Edelman released the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, which tracks the trends that influence and reflect people’s trust in the four major societal institutions: government, business, media and NGOs. This year’s report revealed that none of these four institutions is trusted by the public, which stems from our fear of the future and the role these institutions play in it.

It’s a wake-up call that maybe BlackRock and BP are listening to and one TFI is heeding as well.

Last month, TFI released it’s fifth State of the Fertilizer Industry Report – or unofficially the industry’s sustainability report. The report has been tracking industry performance on various environmental, social, and economic indicators for five years. And I’m pleased to say the industry is making progress!

Some of the highlights include:

  • The industry is more than twice as safe as industry peers when compared to benchmark data from the Department of Labor.
  • The fertilizer industry delivers more than $130 billion in economic impact in the United States.
  • Total energy use per nutrient ton of fertilizer produced decreased 3 percent from the prior year.
  • The industry captured more than 4.5 times the greenhouse gas emissions that were captured in 2013. These captured emissions were then used for other industrial purposes.
  • Nitrogen producers are using half the amount of water per nutrient ton produced than they did in 2013.

The report showcases data on all segments of the fertilizer industry from fertilizer use on the farm, the impact on people and communities, energy and environment, and transportation. For the first time this year, TFI is able to report that nearly 6 million tons of recycled materials were used in the production fertilizer.

And while the report contains more data, there’s still much work to be done to make progress on these metrics. Last year, TFI’s Board of Directors approved a new organization strategic plan. And in a sign that this industry also “gets it,” one of the three pillars of the plan is a commitment to the environment.

The board identified their commitment to reducing the environmental footprint of the production and use of fertilizer. And building on the successes highlighted through five years of reporting, the industry will continue to invest in more efficient production facilities that use less water and energy while emitting fewer GHGs.

On the use side, the industry continues to expand the reach of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship initiative. This past year the state of Florida implemented the 4R Certification program, which certifies fertilizer retailers and crop consultants – those who apply or make fertilizer recommendations – are following business practices in accordance with 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles. Similar efforts are underway in a number of other states. All of which helps to significantly reduce and prevent fertilizer from running off fields into the water supply.

The TFI staff have also been working diligently over the past several years to quantify the benefits of 4R practice implementation on the farm. And I’m excited to say that we’re making progress on this front as well. We know that cost is an important consideration for farmers when thinking about any practice change. To answer these questions, we have developed a host of case studies showcasing how farmers across the United States have seen costs go down, yield go up, and environmental impact lessened through using 4R-based practices. You can learn more at 4Rfarming.org.

The fertilizer industry employs more than 103,000 people in the United States. To capture their work and impact, the State of the Industry Report features interviews with employees across the value chain, including those who partner with the industry on research and stewardship initiatives. Take a listen and hear from the industry in their own voice.

Please head to the TFI website at fertilizerreport.org to learn all about how the fertilizer industry is contributing to a more sustainable future.

The Fertilizer Institute Applauds USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda, Seeks to Gain Government Commitment to Fund 4R-Related Research

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2020 – The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) announced its support for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Agriculture Innovation Agenda,” which the agency bills as a “solution for farmers, consumers, and the environment.” TFI will continue working with USDA to find practical solutions to increasing the adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices among farmers. 4R principles incorporate the right source, right rate, right time, and right placement of fertilizer and are a proven framework that helps American farmers increase production and profitability while enhancing environmental protection and improving sustainability.

“I applaud Secretary Perdue and the team at USDA for their commitment to sustainable agriculture, and TFI fully supports this new initiative,” said Corey Rosenbusch, TFI President and CEO. “The Fertilizer Institute has long promoted similar goals, including 4R Nutrient Stewardship, and I look forward to future cooperation with the department as we work toward advancing these shared objectives to benefit American agriculture.”

TFI and its members are committed to being part of the solution when it comes to innovation and sustainability in agriculture. TFI members are well-positioned to work with farmers in areas such as technical assistance and writing and implementing nutrient management plans based on the 4Rs. 

Through the 4R Research Fund, TFI is also committed to measuring the outcomes of 4R practices. The 4R Research Fund has led to $17.2 million in research efforts through private and public collaborations. The Agriculture Innovation Agenda presents an excellent opportunity to leverage private sector funds with public sector research dollars to quantify the environmental benefits of implementing suites of 4R practices on the farm. In fact, the 2018 Farm Bill designated 4R-based research as a high-priority research area.  

In addition, USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda is based on a report by the National Academies, “Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research – 2030,” which identifies research needs compatible with the 4Rs.

Finally, improvements in data collection by USDA would enable a better understanding of how cropping system management decisions interact with environmental properties or conservation practices. The inclusion of data that focuses on management, however, could be improved to account for nutrient management strategies such as fertilizer source, rate, time, and place.

#

The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) is the leading voice of the nation’s fertilizer industry. Tracing its roots back to 1883, TFI’s membership includes fertilizer producers, wholesalers, retailers, and trading firms. TFI’s full-time staff, based in Washington, D.C., serves its members through legislative, educational, technical, economic information and public communication programs. Find more information about TFI online at TFI.org.

The Fertilizer Institute’s 5th State of the Fertilizer Industry Report Highlights Improvement in Environmental Impact, Safety, and On-Farm Fertilizer Use

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2020 – The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) today released its fifth State of the Fertilizer Industry Report. The report tracks social, environmental, and economic metrics across the entire value chain to identify industry progress and mark areas for improvement. Since 2013, the industry has made significant improvements in water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and research on and adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices.

“The business community is making sustainability a priority, and the fertilizer industry is no different,” said Corey Rosenbusch, TFI President and CEO. “As TFI marks five years of collecting sustainability data, I am excited to be able to look back at the accomplishments we’ve made while also charting a path to where we want to be in the next five years and beyond.”

This year’s report includes data representing 34 companies in the manufacturing, retail, and wholesaler and distributor space. The data represents 91 percent of manufacturing capacity and 32 percent of the retail industry in the United States. Report highlights include:

  • The industry is more than twice as safe as industry peers when compared to benchmark data from the Department of Labor.
  • The fertilizer industry delivers more than $130 billion in economic impact in the United States.
  • Total energy use per nutrient ton of fertilizer produced decreased 3 percent from the prior year.
  • In 2018, the industry captured more than 4.5 times the greenhouse gas emissions that were captured in 2013. These captured emissions were then used for other industrial purposes.
  • Nitrogen producers are using half the amount of water per nutrient ton produced than they did in 2013.

The report showcases data on all segments of the fertilizer industry from fertilizer use on the farm, the impact on people and communities, energy and environment, and transportation. For the first time this year, TFI is able to report that nearly 6 million tons of recycled materials were used in the production fertilizer.

The fertilizer industry employs more than 103,000 people in the United States. To capture their work and impact, the State of the Industry Report features interviews with employees across the value chain, including those who partner with the industry on research and stewardship initiatives.

To learn more about this year’s State of the Fertilizer Industry report, visit fertilizerreport.org.

#

The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) is the leading voice of the nation’s fertilizer industry. Tracing its roots back to 1883, TFI’s membership includes fertilizer producers, wholesalers, retailers, and trading firms. TFI’s full-time staff, based in Washington, D.C., serves its members through legislative, educational, technical, economic information and public communication programs. Find more information about TFI online at TFI.org.

Increasing Interest in Fertilizers Bodes Well for Industry

This article was originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of Argus Media’s Fertilizer Focus magazine.

With 2019 in the books, fertilizer industry leaders note the realities of a year that dealt with bad weather, worldwide political challenges and routine market cycles. This in no way dispels their optimism for 2020 and beyond. In fact, they’re realistic that some years will be challenging, while others will deliver more opportunities than can be expected.  

Data for the fifth State of the Fertilizer Industry Report is being verified by The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) as this issue of Fertilizer Focus goes to press. It will be presented in mid-February during The Fertilizer Institute’s Annual Business Conference. Initial observations of the data confirm experts’ observations that the long-term direction of the fertilizer industry is on an upward trajectory.

Magnus Ankarstrand is president of Yara North America. He says a strong nitrogen market has given rise to an increase in nitrogen production from 2016 onwards, as well as improved production efficiency.

“We’ve seen an increase in production, particularly on the nitrogen side that affects us,” he says. “Capacity in North America was achieved fairly quickly, but additional capacity in China and North Africa has followed, although it is not likely additional nitrogen projects make sense in the near term. For Yara, it’s been important to ensure we continue to make our production more efficient, such as decreasing gas consumption per ton of ammonia produced.

“It’s also been important to expand our downstream distribution,” Ankarstrand adds. “Our ability to distribute our products to cooperatives and retailers worldwide and have infrastructure and alternative outlets in different markets to deliver products all over the world has been extremely important to us, in addition to delivering superior knowledge about crop nutrition to farmers.”

Mike Hamilton, vice president, business director for Plant Nutrients at AdvanSix, says while economics for growers continue to be a struggle, it’s important to keep market cycles in mind.

“We continue to see market cyclicity for fertilizer and crops, in general,” he says. “While today’s market is fairly weak, there is a growing need for more food and grain. I think most market participants expect things to rebound.”

 

Market challenges, industry issues are opportunities

This aligns with observations of The Fertilizer Institute. In addition to normal market fluctuations, there has been a transformational shift in interest of the fertilizer industry from insiders and outsiders alike. This signals an overall positive for upcoming years.

“Stakeholder interest in the fertilizer industry continues to increase, whether that focus stems from water quality, climate change or general sustainability/sustainable sourcing considerations by the food supply chain,” Lara Moody, TFI vice president, stewardship and sustainability, says. “Stakeholders increasingly look to industry retail members as farmers’ advisers to bring about change that leads to reduced nutrient loss and sustainably grown products. Manufacturers and producers feel pressure each time our products are linked to algal blooms, eutrophication, ammonia losses and climate change.“

Ankarstrand concurs.

“In the last few years, especially the last couple, there has been a significant increase in the whole sustainability discussion around agriculture,” he says. “This interest is accelerating. The increased focus on the carbon footprint of agriculture in general, and especially fertilizer issues, such as leaching, runoff and water management have become big issues.

“Quite clearly these are becoming big topics, but what’s important for us as a company and for the industry as a whole, is to provide a solution that solves these issues with current technology using available methods, such as the 4Rs,” he adds.

 

Addressing issues now

As noted in previous editions of the State of the Industry Report, the industry is ahead of the game when it comes to advances. The 2019 edition is expected to deliver the same.

“Some of the trends we’ve measured through members are important points we are able to use in advocacy,” Moody says. “Since 2014, the industry has continued to increase the percentage of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions captured during nutrient production, our safety record remains well below that of our peers and we’ve seen a continued increase in enhanced efficiency fertilizer use.”

On-farm adoption of 4R practices continues to progress. TFI is developing case studies to help growers see how the 4Rs can benefit individual operations’ bottom line.

In 2017, TFI conducted research to understand what the barriers and consideration farmers face when implementing practice change. Moody says cost was overwhelmingly identified as the top consideration. She adds that while cost is simple to identify, it is more complex to show farmers the economic benefits of practice change.

“Because practices are linked to management systems, costs from equipment changes and fuel usage to labor and changing input costs must be considered. Cost savings or increases linked to practice change come from a variety of management decisions. Understanding where they originate puts more information in the hands of farmers and crop advisers. By developing case studies in multiple geographies and various cropping systems, we hope farmers will be able to see examples that look somewhat like their own operations, Moody says.”

In addition to TFI’s own research on the benefits of 4R Nutrient Stewardship, its members conduct research to improve use of their products. AdvanSix has examined the agronomic benefits of split-applying nitrogen and sulfur. Hamilton says they have found that performing a pre-plant or at-plating application and then applying ammonium sulfate later in the cycle, gets the nutrients where and when the plants need them. Plus, there are fewer environmental losses.

“This improves grower economics because they’re getting more efficient plant nutrition,” he says. “This is important for the industry and society as a whole.”

As Yara has increased production capacity, it also found a way to tap by-product hydrogen from other producers in the Freeport, Texas, area and use it to produce in a sense, hydrogen-free ammonia.

Ankarstrand and other company leaders are looking ahead, too. Yara has invested in incubator farms in Alabama and California in the United States and in Saskatchewan in Canada. All represent a substantial investment into crop nutrition knowledge and research and development. However, the California farm includes tree crops, so the commitment is strong for a long-term, year-over-year study of nutrient use.

For the last two years, AdvanSix has issued its own sustainability report. Hamilton says it is a comprehensive document that looks at issues from an overall business perspective and supports the company’s goal of being transparent.

 

Understanding of existing nutrients expanding

Opportunities for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium will continue to grow, as well as those for other nutrients, especially sulfur.

“In the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen an increase in awareness of the understanding of the need for sulfur,” Hamilton says. “It has accelerated a bit more because over the same period of time, we’ve seen a significant reduction in SO2 emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants. Because of this, US sulfur deposition has decreased and the need for growers to invest in sulfur nutrition is increasing. We see this with sulfur demand.”

It’s not just the United States, Hamilton says.

“We don’t believe China and India use enough sulfur,” he says “Even soybeans in the United States could benefit from more sulfur. We’re conducting research on this now. Most of our research is completed in partnerships with agricultural universities. Their researchers perform great work and growers look to university researchers as non-biased advisers.”

 

Opportunities abound

These advances and changes in thinking create opportunities for all industry players. TFI’s Moody says most leaders are embracing them from the top down.

“At TFI, we have ramped up 4R efforts for the last decade. We have been able to take ownership of our part of the nutrient loss problem and more importantly, own a solution. The 4Rs allow us to lead with science and bring a wide range of stakeholders with us from state and federal agencies, academia, conservation and commodity groups. We’ve also ramped up our knowledge of industry efforts with the data collection required for the State of the Industry Report. It gives us awareness of multiple efforts across the fertilizer supply chain that we use to inform our advocacy efforts and decisions, as well as our stakeholders. Industry members can also use the data to perform internal assessments relative to industry averages.”

The key is continued cooperation, Hamilton says.

“Part of our challenge is to continue to communicate,” he says. “Fertilizer is important to ensure people have enough to eat. How we communicate its relevance will be key to success at all levels.”

Aiding this much-needed communication is one use of the new State of the Industry Report, Moody says.

“Sustainable food choices, water pollution and climate change remain at the forefront of discussions and in the media,” she says. “We also hear more about environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting for publicly traded companies. Our 4R and State of the Industry Report are tools the fertilizer industry can use as they navigate these issues.”

2020 4R Advocates Showcase the Economic and Environmental Benefits of 4R Farming

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2019 – The Fertilizer Institute today revealed the 2020 4R Advocates, five farmer and retailer pairs who have teamed up to turn the 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles into practice, yielding economic and environmental benefits on their farms.

“For nine years we’ve been honoring the true champions of 4R Nutrient Stewardship – the farmers and retailers who take risks to implement innovative fertilizer management and conservation practices,” said Lara Moody, TFI Vice President for Stewardship and Sustainability. “I’m thrilled that this year we’ve added 10 more excellent advocates who have so clearly demonstrated the real-world success of the 4Rs on their farms.”

The 4R Advocate Program has recognized 90 growers and retailers, farming 215,006 acres in 22 states. The 2020 Advocates represent two new geographies – Pennsylvania and Texas – and two new crops – cotton and sugarcane. For nearly a decade, these leaders have farmed as examples by championing sound nutrient stewardship. 

The 2020 Advocates are: 

  • John Hundley and Eric Hopkins, Hundley Farms, Belle Glade, Fla.
    Tim Stein, Wedgworth’s Inc., Belle Glade, Fla.
     
  • Brian Ryberg, Ryberg Farms, Buffalo Lake, Minn.
    Mike Welter, Central Region Cooperative, Buffalo Lake, Minn.
     
  • Jeff O’Bannon, Morgan-O’Bannon Family Farm, Madison, Mo.
    Todd Ragsdale, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Paris, Mo.
     
  • Mike Kurek, Susquehanna Orchards, Delta, Pa.
    Tim Hushon, The Mill, Red Lion, Pa.
     
  • Jeremy Brown, Broadview Agriculture, Inc., Lubbock, Texas
    Taylor Allison, Eco-Drip Irrigation, Abernathy, Texas

The Advocates will be honored at an awards banquet hosted by TFI at the 2020 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas, where they will also represent the 4R program during the Commodity Classic tradeshow. Throughout the year they will also be part of TFI’s outreach efforts to promote fertilizer management practices by hosting farm field days, participating in conference panels, and speaking on behalf of 4Rs to their farming peers.

The 4R Advocate program is one of many facets of a high-priority campaign to raise awareness and adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices. Fertilizer is a key component of sustainable crop production systems, and the fertilizer industry recognizes the need to efficiently utilize these nutrients. 4R Advocates and other farmers have partnered with The Fertilizer Institute to demonstrate how 4R practices have led to cost-efficiencies and improved environmental outcomes on their fields. More information and data on their efforts is available at 4RFarming.org.

4R Nutrient Stewardship provides a framework to achieve in-field goals, such as increased production and profitability, enhanced environmental protection, and improved sustainability. The 4R concept incorporates practices that use the right fertilizer source at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place.

The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) is the leading voice of the nation’s fertilizer industry. Tracing its roots back to 1883, TFI’s membership includes fertilizer producers, wholesalers, retailers and trading firms. TFI’s full-time staff, based in Washington, D.C., serves its members through legislative, educational, technical, economic information and public communication programs. Find more information about TFI online at TFI.org. Learn more about TFI’s nutrient stewardship initiatives at nutrientstewardship.org