TFI CEO Rosenbusch Testifies at House Ag Committee Hearing on Agricultural Challenges

Arlington, VA – The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President and CEO Corey Rosenbusch today provided official testimony during the House Committee on Agriculture hearing Uncertainty, Inflation, Regulations: Challenges for American Agriculture.

“Fertilizer is an essential tool for farmers to achieve the yields necessary to feed our growing world,” Rosenbusch said. “We appreciate the opportunity to shed light on current market dynamics and offer solutions to the pressures currently facing the U.S. agricultural sector. As always, the fertilizer industry is committed to ensuring adequate supply to meet farmer demand for the nutrients that are so essential to growing healthy and abundant crops.”

Rosenbusch focused much of his testimony on the fact that fertilizer is a globally traded commodity subject to international pressures and geopolitical events.

“Domestic production of fertilizer accounts for only 7% of global production and 90% of all fertilizer usage happens outside of the United States,” Rosenbusch continued. “Geopolitical events have been the biggest disrupter to fertilizer markets in recent years.”

The geopolitical events Rosenbusch referred to included sanctions on Belarus, which supplies 20% of the world’s potash supply; China, which is a major exporter of fertilizers, but last year imposed restrictions on fertilizer exports; and Russia, which has historically provided 20% of global fertilizer supplies as the world’s largest fertilizer exporter.

Rosenbusch then offered solutions and items Congress could act on to improve domestic production and supply.

“While Congress cannot control Russia and China, there are a number of areas where policy could have a positive impact on the agricultural sector,” Rosenbusch concluded. “Regulatory certainty is perhaps the most significant area Congress could help. Additionally, listing potash and phosphate as critical minerals, energy policy that supports an abundant and affordable supply of natural gas, 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.”

Rosenbusch’s oral statement can be found here

Rosenbusch’s full written testimony can be found here.

TFI’s full policy solutions document can be found here.   




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 and follow us on Twitter at @Fertilizer_Inst. Learn more about TFI’s nutrient stewardship initiatives at and on Twitter at @4rnutrients.

Iowa State University Study Can’t Refute that Increased Production Costs and Commensurate Supply Chain Issues Drove Increase in Fertilizer Prices

Fertilizer prices increased to 10-year highs over 2021 and 2022, leading growers, policymakers and others in the agriculture industry to look for the reason why. Those in the fertilizer industry who experienced the back-to-back-to-back events first-hand that drove prices up over the course of those 24 months are keenly aware of the reasons why, but many outside the industry latched onto something more nefarious: market consolidation and greed.

A recently released report undertaken by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University (ISU) at the request of Iowa Attorney General Miller came to the primary conclusion that they did not have enough evidence to refute that “increased production costs and commensurate supply chain issues were the main cause of increased fertilizer prices in 2021/2022.”

This finding was not news to TFI. In fact, TFI has been spending a good chunk of these last two years educating commodity groups, farmer organizations, and policymakers about the myriad issues impacting fertilizer markets and influencing fertilizer prices. You know, things such as the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, increased energy costs, hurricanes, deep freezes, geopolitical unrest, political sanctions, and the Russia-Ukraine war.

Beyond the study’s primary conclusion, TFI has examined the report and provided additional key takeaway points and provided them below.

  • The study acknowledges and articulates well a variety of factors influencing fertilizer prices and markets. While there is always an ability to add more detail and background, the study provides a more holistic view of the market than the Texas A&M white paper that only focused on the change in domestic natural gas price. The ISU study could have made a stronger connection between global energy and fertilizer markets and the domestic fertilizer market.
  • A trend analysis of the price relationship between ammonia, granular urea, Henry Hub natural gas, international natural gas and corn price showed that “[A]nalyses imply fertilizer prices are likely to rely more on input costs than output prices most of the time. In recent years, anhydrous ammonia prices have depended on international natural gas prices, while urea prices relied more on domestic natural gas prices.” Several statistical and economic methods were utilized to arrive at these conclusions.
  • The authors provide a robust conversation on market power and economic profit, explaining “that while economists agree concentration is a necessary condition for market power, they have for decades now mostly abandoned the assertion that concentration is sufficient for market power.” This statement means that looking only at the correlation between the level of concentration or number of firms and the reported profits of an industry to determine market power and influence has been abandoned for other more robust techniques.
  • The media often discusses the fertilizer industries profits, stock prices and returns as evidence of market power. Economists have always been wary of looking at these metrics as these measures are not identical to the economic profits economists seek when measuring market power.
    • “The fertilizer industry’s average net income return over the past few years is high but comparable to other large industries, especially when taken over a longer run as fertilizer companies had low (sometimes negative) profits prior to 2020. The fertilizer industry’s average stock price return is also comparable to that of other firms in other large industries and comparable with a large portfolio of other firms and seems to be commensurate with its relative risk. A similar comparison to Iowa farm incomes and land value returns shows that the fertilizer returns actually lag those slightly.”
    • “Stock prices, especially, reflect what investors think the potential for earnings are, and stock price returns for these companies before and during the pandemic should reflect investors’ broader market perceptions of each firm’s risk and return. The takeaway from examining stock price returns is that the fertilizer industry is similar to the broader market from an investment return perspective.”

Upon publication of the study, Iowa Attorney General Miller in a news release thanked ISU for studying the fertilizer market and prices and for publishing the report. He also promised his office would continue monitoring the situation.

TFI is appreciative of economist at ISU for completing this in-depth study that highlights both current market supply and demand factors and their influence on markets, as well as their explanation of key economic principles related to common questions about the industry. While the study does leave several questions unanswered, the study provides the best analysis data will allow to date.

TFI welcomes any member feedback or perspective on conclusions of the study and ask that you please send those comments to TFI Director of Market Intelligence Jason Troendle at [email protected] or (202) 515-2710.


Statement on Russia-Ukraine Conflict

TFI is concerned about the destabilizing situation occurring in the Ukraine. Our main concern is the safety of all the citizens in harm’s way.

Currently, it is unclear the exact magnitude and how the Russia-Ukraine conflict will affect the already-tight global market for fertilizer, but it will add additional pressure on a market that has already experienced many challenges over the last 18 months.

It has been implied that fertilizer companies may take advantage of the current situation, but that is far from the truth. The U.S. fertilizer industry is committed to serving farmers and makes it unequivocally clear that ensuring grower access to the nutrients needed to sustain people around the world is of the highest priority.

Because 90% of all fertilizer used is consumed outside the United States, the actions of Russia will impact the global market for fertilizer around the world. Russia is the second largest producer of ammonia, urea, and potash and the fifth largest producer of processed phosphates. In terms of their share of the global export market, Russia accounts for 23% of ammonia, 14% of urea, and 21% of potash, as well as 10% of processed phosphate exports. The conflict in the Ukraine will also put additional stress and uncertainty on energy markets. Russia supplies approximately one-third of Europe’s natural gas, the main feedstock to produce nitrogen fertilizers.

Because of Russia’s large fertilizer production and its role as a global fertilizer supplier, the removal of Russian product from the global marketplace will have an impact on supply. Despite the benefits afforded by a robust U.S.-based fertilizer industry, prices for our products are driven by global supply and demand factors. There have been reports of misleading information regarding the applicability of U.S. sanctions to companies in the industry, and TFI strongly encourages companies to consult legal counsel for advice on sanctions-related issues at question.


The Complex Truth About Fertilizer Prices

U.S. fertilizer manufacturers, importers and retailers are heavily invested in making sure that farming is profitable and sustainable. The U.S. fertilizer industry operates in a global economy, and the prices farmers pay for fertilizer are subject to a complex web of global supply and demand factors:

Global Demand
A total of 90 percent of global fertilizer consumption occurs outside of the United States. US producers and farmers must continue to remain competitive globally to stay in business.

Global Supply
The primary fertilizer materials, like the major crops, are commodities and are widely traded globally. In 2020, nearly 44 percent of all fertilizer produced globally was exported. Supply chain challenges are present across all commodity markets today, and fertilizer is no exception.


“Facts are stubborn things,” is a statement often attributed to former U.S. President John Adams. Although Adams never saw the economic, environmental and social benefits afforded by commercially produced fertilizers in his lifetime, he probably knew that the truth is often more complex than it initially appears.”


Anticipated Crop Prices
Fertilizer is closely linked to commodities. Corn for example, accounts for nearly 50 percent of U.S. nutrient use. The markets are linked because as farmers try to increase production to capture additional revenue from high or increasing crop prices, demand for fertilizer increases due to additional planted acreage. While highly correlated in the long run, there have been periods, such as 2011-2014, when the prices do not move together because there are factors that independently influence both crop and fertilizer prices.

2021/22 season average corn prices were forecast by USDA in April 2022 to be up significantly at $5.80/bu. compared to $3.61, $3.56, and $4.35 in the past three years. The price outlook for corn harvested in 2021 also dramatically increased since mid-2020, creating strong demand for fertilizers.

Trade Disruptions
Fertilizer is sold in a global market, so disruptions in other geographies will also impact the U.S. market either through supply, price, or both. Belarus has historically comprised approximately 21percent of the global supply for potash. In August of2021, the U.S. and EU governments enacted sanctions against Belarus for election fraud and other human rights violations. This created a global supply-shock in the potash market as some financial institutions are reluctant to provide financing for these transactions.

China’s export ban on phosphate fertilizer as well as some nitrogen fertilizers through June 2022 puts additional pressure on the global market. China accounted for 25 percent of global processed phosphate exports and 10% percent of urea exports in 2020.

Russia set six-month quotas (not a full ban) on nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers in November 2021. Russia accounted for 10 percent of global processed phosphate exports and 23 percent and 14 percent of global exports for ammonia and urea respectively in 2020. This policy was recently extended to December of 2022.

In response to the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. government enacted sanctions against Russia for its actions. Given Russia is a major global exporter of fertilizers, this will create a global supply-shock. Additionally, even for those countries who have not sanctioned Russia, financial institutions are reluctant to provide financing for transactions.

Production Costs
The price of natural gas has a direct impact on the cost of ammonia production as it accounts for 70 to 90percent of total ammonia production costs. In 2021,natural gas prices doubled. Record prices in Europe near the end of 2021 caused an estimated 40 percent of ammonia production to be shuttered or idled. Prices have gone down, but recently increased due to the invasion of Ukraine.

Natural Disasters
The February 2020 winter ice storms and Hurricane Ida are the most recent examples of a natural disasters that interrupted production of fertilizers (and natural gas) in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, which account for 60 percent of total U.S. ammonia production.

To reduce potential exposure in 2020, some manufacturers postponed regularly scheduled maintenance turnarounds (2-6 week period) to avoid having additional contractors on site. This maintenance is necessary and cannot be delayed indefinitely, so a larger than normal number of turnarounds occurred in the summer of 2021, impacting some production schedules.

Cross-Border Vaccine Mandate
The Department of Homeland Security has imposed a vaccine mandate on U.S.-Mexican-Canadian cross-border commerce. Eighty-six percent (86 percent) of the potash fertilizer used by U.S. farmers comes from Canada, and the mandate may impact the ability to ship fertilizer across the border, raising costs and threatening supply in the northern states. This mandate remains in effect.

Fertilizer moves by rail, truck, barge, pipeline, and ocean vessels. Over the past 20 years, rail rates to ship anhydrous ammonia have increased 206 percent, which is more than triple the average increase for all commodities combined. The just-in-time need for fertilizer application can exacerbate this challenge for fertilizer shippers as trucking capacity is a serious challenge, as are unexpected lock-and-dam failures.

Domestic Fertilizer Delivery
Timely fertilizer delivery is highly dependent upon global, national, and local logistics and supply chains. Historically, local and regional supply chains experience challenges due to unforeseen events and weather, this year being no different. The Fertilizer Institute strongly encourages growers to test their soils and work closely with their trusted retail providers to plan for the next crop year as early as possible.

Domestic Supply
The United States is the third largest manufacturer of nitrogen fertilizers, and the domestic market remains competitive. In 2008, there were 13 companies operating 22 nitrogen ammonia plants. Today, the industry has expanded to 16 companies operating 35 ammonia plants, producing 15.5 million nutrient short tons of nitrogen fertilizer.

The United States is the third largest producer of phosphate fertilizer; however, phosphate production is dependent on the location and availability of this natural resource.

“Facts are stubborn things,” is a statement often attributed to former U.S. President John Adams. Although Adams never saw the economic, environmental and social benefits afforded by commercially produced fertilizers in his lifetime, he probably knew that the truth is often more complex than it initially appears. Further information on supply, demand and other market dynamics is available from TFI.


TFI to House Ag Committee: Fertilizer is a Global Commodity Critical to Our Nation’s Food Supply Chain

ARLINGTON, VA – In testimony submitted to the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President & CEO Corey Rosenbusch highlighted the global nature of the fertilizer market and its critical role in feeding the world’s growing population.

“First of all, the fertilizer industry ensures that farmers receive the nutrients they need to enrich the soil and, in turn, grow the crops that feed our nation and the world,” Rosenbusch said. “Without fertilizer, we would have to make do with half of our current food supply.”

Pivoting to the subject of the committee hearing, “The Immediate Challenges to Our Nation’s Food Supply Chain,” Rosenbusch continued that fertilizer markets and related supply chain challenges must be considered within a global context, as demand for fertilizer is global in nature and fertilizers are used by farmers in nearly every country in the world.

“Fertilizers are truly global commodities, as these materials are transported from the limited number of countries which produce them to the global market which requires them,” Rosenbusch explained. “Nearly 44% of all fertilizers produced globally are exported. Moving this material from production facilities to farms requires virtually every mode of transportation and a carefully orchestrated system of logistics to serve farmers on a just-in-time basis.”

Prices have been rising for nearly all goods and services over the past 18-20 months, including fertilizer. “A variety of factors impact fertilizer markets, and most recently, are negatively impacting supply and raising costs,” Rosenbusch said. “Current factors that have most influenced the current fertilizer market are global demand for fertilizer, disruptive weather events, deferred facility maintenance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, international trade sanctions and actions, increasing transportation costs, and the rising cost of natural gas.”

Domestically, the February winter ice storms and Hurricane Ida disrupted production in an area responsible for 60% of domestic ammonia production. Further eroding the ability of domestic manufacturers to recover from weather-related lost production was the deferral of necessary maintenance to multi-billion-dollar facilities. This maintenance was delayed to reduce potential exposure to COVID from additional personnel on site and will be ongoing through 2022, resulting in facility closures of 2-6 weeks.

International events have also affected fertilizer supply. “While the U.S. imports 86% of potash fertilizer from Canada and only 5% from Belarus, Belarus is a large supplier of potash and accounts for 21% of global production,” Rosenbusch said. “The sanctions on Belarus have had an impact on the global supply-demand balance and the price of fertilizer. Additionally, China has recently banned phosphate fertilizer exports and instituted tighter export controls on other fertilizer materials, including urea, further tightening the global nitrogen market.”

Rising energy costs affect the cost of fertilizer production, namely the key input of natural gas which accounts for 70-90% of the production cost of ammonia. “The U.S. has enjoyed low natural gas prices in recent years, but in the past six months domestic natural gas prices have increased by 224%,” explained Rosenbusch. “Natural gas prices in Europe are currently four times higher than in the U.S. and have forced facilities there to reduce output or idle plants, leading to lower availability and higher prices for farmers.”

Transportation costs have also risen dramatically, especially for certain types of fertilizer. “Rail rates for shipping anhydrous ammonia, the building block of all nitrogen fertilizers and one of the most efficient sources of nitrogen for farmers, have increased by 206% over the past twenty years,” said Rosenbusch. “That increase is more than triple the average increase for all other commodities combined.” Large cost-saving initiatives and questionable authority delegation to the rail industry, coupled with the fact that more than half of all fertilizer tonnage moves by rail, have raised shipping costs for fertilizer by millions of dollars.

“Many in the agricultural sector have experienced challenges related to crop inputs and fertilizer has not been spared,” Rosenbusch concluded. “We are proud of the industry’s efforts to ensure supply while dealing with changing global dynamics so that farmers in the U.S. and abroad are able to grow the food, fuel and fiber our growing world needs.”  

TFI’s full submitted testimony can be read by clicking here.



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 and follow us on Twitter at @Fertilizer_Inst. Learn more about TFI’s nutrient stewardship initiatives at and on Twitter at @4rnutrients.

TFI Releases 2016 Commercial Fertilizer Report

This week, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) released the 2016 Commercial Fertilizer Report. The 2016 edition, a joint project of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO), highlights that U.S. fertilizer nutrient consumption increased 0.6 percent to 22.13 million short tons during the fertilizer year ending June 30, 2016. Total gross tonnage, which includes single-nutrient materials, multiple-nutrient materials, organics, and secondary and micro-nutrient stood at 61.38 million tons during fertilizer year 2016 (July – June). 

For the first time, this year’s report is exclusively available as a digital download, providing immediate access to the data. Digital copies are available for purchase in the TFI store. $100 for TFI and AAPFCO members and $250 for non-members.

Order here

Global Food Security – a Critical Issue


The following white paper was produced by the International Fertilizer Association:


What is food security? All people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life (United Nation’s Committee on World Food Security). (

What is the state of food security? Even before the covid-19 pandemic, the most recently available estimates of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published in 2019 indicated that nearly 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of the world population, were going hungry. Moderate or severe food insecurity rose between 2015 and 2019, affecting more than a quarter of the world population, women more often than men (

A note on nutrition security, some 3 billion people cannot afford a basic healthy diet that contains all the essential nutrients for a healthy life.

What influences food security? Many factors go into food security – climate change and local weather conditions, agricultural policies, social customs, business models, access to market, technology and finance, post-harvest losses and more. Most fundamentally, it is the smallholder farms (some 90 percent of the world’s farms, according to the FAO) and the larger family enterprises that help feed a global population that is on track to reach 10 billion.

Farmers’ access to inputs such as fertilizers is vital for food security. There is a strong link between people’s nutrition and the amounts and types of minerals available in soil and plants. This is because plants are the primary source of nutrients for people and animals.

  • Ideally, farmers can access a variety of plant nutrition solutions tailored to their specific sites. Fertilizers may be organic (e.g., manure), mineral (either natural or manufactured, and often imported from other countries) or organo-mineral.
  • Fertilizers provide essential macro- and micronutrients to plants, which in turn are passed on to people when consumed:

    • Nitrogen. Nitrogen is an essential component of amino acids for building proteins, nucleic acids and chlorophyll which converts the sun’s energy into sugars. It is vital for plant metabolism, growth and health, which in turn benefits humans.
    • Phosphorus and plants. Phosphorous is vital for energy storage and transfer and membrane integrity in plants. Particularly important in early growth stages, it promotes tillering, root development, early flowering and ripening.
    • Phosphorus and people. Phosphorous is a component of bones, teeth, DNA and RNA. In the form of phospholipids, phosphorus is also a component of cell membrane structure and of the body’s key energy source, ATP.
    • Potash (potassium) and plants. Potassium has major functions in enzyme activation, transpiration and the transport of assimilates (the products of photosynthesis). It helps plants retain water during droughts, provides strength to plant cell walls and decreases susceptibility to diseases and insects.
    • Potash (potassium) and people. Potassium is vital for the proper functioning of cells, and muscles and nerves depend on it. Since potassium cannot be stored in the body, it must be continually replaced by foods rich in potassium.

For more information, see 19 Essential Ingredients for Improving and Protecting Plant Health, International Fertilizer Association (IFA)

When supplies are constrained not all remaining fertilizer producers can quickly scale up production and get inputs to distributors and farmers.

The production process for nitrogen-based fertilizers starts by pulling nitrogen from the air and reacting it with hydrogen to produce ammonia, with further steps leading to fertilizer products such as urea, ammonium nitrate and urea ammonium nitrate. As the nitrogen production process is energy-intensive, large volumes are produced in locations with access to hydrocarbon resources.

Phosphate and potash-based fertilizers are produced from mined ores. Mines can take months or longer to make changes in production, there is not always a quick way to bridge gaps in supply. It also takes several years to construct newbuild processing plants to upgrade the mined ores into finished fertilizer products. (Fertilizer Manual, 3rd edition).

All mineral fertilizer products have the potential to suffer supply disruptions. At the most local scale, markets with relatively few players such as potash can suffer disruptions as a result of a single mine or plant going out of operation or no longer having access to the market. In 2019, the top four potash exporters – Canada, Belarus, Russia and Israel – accounted for 85% of global trade volume (IFA: IFASTAT). Producer-level disruptions can occur as a result of technical issues, natural disasters, geopolitical tensions and other unforeseen factors.

In fertilizer markets with a larger number of players such as nitrogen and phosphate, events on a country and regional scale can still cause disruptions. In 2019, the top four urea exporters – Russia, Qatar, China and Egypt – accounted for 45% of global trade volume (IFA: IFASTAT). The top four exporting countries of DAP and MAP – China, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the US – accounted for 79% of global trade (IFA: IFASTAT). Raw material supply interruptions, geopolitical conflict and trade barriers, among others, all have the potential to disrupt global trade and reduce the accessibility of fertilizers.

What can happen when farmers do not have access to inputs such as mineral fertilizers?

Farmers have to make choices and consider trade-offs every day. If mineral fertilizers are not physically available or no longer an economic option – either to use alone or in combination with other plant nutrients, and depending on what the plants, soils and local conditions need, and the time of year – the consequences can be serious for the farmers and society.

  • Farmers need an adequate supply of nutrients in both soil and plants to ensure soil fertility, good crop yields, healthier plants that can better withstand adverse weather conditions and disease and crops that have good nutritional value.
  • In part, food and nutrition security depends on better crop quality for human health and the health of livestock.
  • Farmers’ livelihoods can be precarious and vulnerable to disruptions to their productivity such as problems with inputs such as fertilizers and seeds. This is particularly important for smallholder farmers.

Governments across the globe designated fertilizer as an essential good in the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic, an indicator of its vital role in the agriculture value chain, and they should continue to do so.

  • The UN’s FAO reported in June 2021 that global food prices have risen for the past 12 months to reach the highest in almost a decade in May and freight costs have also increased.
  • FAO also reported that the cost of importing food is set to rise by 12 percent to $1.72 trillion globally led by increases in grains, vegetable oils and oil seeds.

Fertilizer Industry Keen on Sustainability, New Market Opportunities, ROI

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

Based on recent discussions among members of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) board of directors, more than 80 percent agree that sustainability and environmental impact are the issues that will most affect their businesses for the next three to five years.

“This is telling, especially since it echoes what our recent State of the Fertilizer Industry Report shows,” says Corey Rosenbusch, TFI president and CEO. “It highlights our efforts to partner with the industry to demonstrate and benchmark our progress towards sustainable development goals (SDGs).

“We’re making headway. For example, the energy used to produce one ton of fertilizer has decreased by three percent since 2017 and emissions per nutrient ton decreased seven percent in the same period, demonstrating ongoing progress with fertilizer manufacturing and use,” he adds.

Rosenbusch emphasizes that industry advancement goes beyond manufacturing. Nutrient stewardship on the farm shows measurable progress as evidenced by case studies, research and ROI documented by 90 4R Nutrient Stewardship Advocates recognized by TFI the past nine years.

It is no small commitment. Rosenbusch says the industry has committed $8.4 million to the 4R Research Fund and leveraged $8.8 million in funding for these projects since 2013.


Safety paramount

That the industry consistently achieves a safety record that is twice that of industry peers, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, is more important now than ever.

“The pandemic caused by COVID-19 arrived in the U.S. just prior to more than 80 percent of the nitrogen moving through the supply chain,” Rosenbusch says. “During this time, employees at ports, distribution terminals, trucking and retail operations showed up to ensure nutrients were delivered to farmers. They did so because they know their employers are focused on their health and safety to ensure long-term food production.”

Rosenbusch reiterates that, despite the runs on grocery stores that occurred, the overall food supply is in good shape. It is critically important to ensure its sustainability with a strong infrastructure supported by knowledgeable professionals.

“Our industry is focused on safety, now more than ever,” he says. “Since the pandemic struck, the employees who make up safety and health teams at facilities are practically doubling as epidemiologists. It is remarkable to learn how these teams are being so highly protective of workers during these times. They remain committed to stopping the spread of any disease to ensure products get to the fields.”

The TFI team worked with government officials so that the fertilizer industry was declared an essential part of the US infrastructure and its employees are officially listed as critical workers.

“Issues surrounding this pandemic will be a focus for months ahead,” Rosenbusch says.


Collaboration key to unlocking opportunities

Despite current challenges, Rosenbusch is optimistic for opportunities that lie ahead, especially as the industry collaborates to advance SDGs and enhance environmental, social and governance impacts.

“From ResponsibleAg promoting worker and community safety to the end of the supply chain where the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program helps ensure the sustainable use of fertilizer, the results of industrywide collaboration are being proven, Rosenbusch says. “The Foundation for Agronomic Research puts forward information through presentations and case studies that allow farmers to tell their stories with data that helps influence farmer behavior on a broader scale.”

Using data, or science to communicate is foundational to TFI partnerships that include The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, the land grant university system and others.

“Scientists help make industry research go further,” Rosenbusch says, “Plus, they are objective voices and provide unbiased lenses for the world to understand the impact of fertilizer and what it contributes to society.”

One example is a project with Iowa State University that examines the impacts of 4R nitrogen management on crop production and nitrogen loss in tile drainage. Matthew Helmers, PhD with the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University, led the project.

“This results of this project are directly applicable to growers throughout the Midwest,” Helmers says. “That’s what is critical about this partnership with the 4R Research Fund. Because of it, we were able to develop a research project that fills gaps and provides information for those in our region. The fund also supports research that benefits growers in other parts of the US and Canada.”


Educational activities convey research

Practically applying TFI-supported research is one goal of the educational programming component within the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program. Ensuring the programs are delivered with the right content for the right audiences falls to a team of four with complementary experiences of agronomic and agricultural engineering expertise.

One example of ongoing educational outreach is TFI’s relationship with Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs).

“We partner with the CCAs to be a resource for their ongoing educational efforts,” says Laura Moody, TFI vice president of stewardship and sustainability programs. “We hosted four webinars that counted as continuing education credits. Each had 1,000 to 1,500 participants who viewed them. These focused on micronutrients and how they are applied relative to the 4Rs.

“We also prepare an article for the 4R section of Crops & Soils magazine six times a year,” Moody adds. “These articles take readily available information from peer-reviewed literature and converts in into everyday terms to that it is readily accessible for CCAs.”

TFI staff present during a variety of conferences each year. These generally cover ongoing 4R research or economic case studies. In addition, the team works with members and industry stakeholders to host session or symposia. For example, TFI staff will lead a session about 4R metrics and another that focuses on research funded by the 4R Research Fund during the 2020 Tri-Societies (agronomy, crop and soil science) meeting.


New venture seeks carbon and water credits

Helping to develop further return on 4R practices, TFI and the Economic Services Market Consortium (ESMC) announced plans to test improved nutrient stewardship as one way to increase farmer profitability through the ecosystems services market ESMC is developing with a launch goal of 2022.

“The ESMC team is working to create a marketplace where farmers can get the credits of the environmental practices they’re already doing, such as the 4Rs,” says Sally Flis, PhD, TFI Senior Directory of Agronomy. “TFI will engage some of our 4R Advocates to conduct a pilot program to test protocols in different crops and different regions.

“Our role in this pilot is to help recruit 4R Advocates who will share their data with ESMC and build out the tools to measure credits,” Flis says. “Knowing that 2022 is fast approaching, we’ll start with four farms. We can then determine what data is needed and the best ways to obtain it. We’ll then determine how to scale up data collection and create processes that help us onboard more farms in the next nine months.”

Flis will serve as a science advisor to ESMC on the project. ESMC’s science-based, outcomes-based protocols and program generates credits for soil carbon, net GH, water quality and water use efficiency.


Educational efforts, 4Rs return dividends

While TFI pursues new opportunities for the industry, its tenet that the practices it supports return dividends remains at the forefront. This is evident with the results of implementing 4R practices. One of six new case studies presented at demonstrates the practices lowers cost per-acre production costs over time.

Management at a Florida potato and green bean farm uses multiple in-season splits for fertilizer applications, tissue testing and soil testing to monitor and adjust nutrient applications. Fertigation is now being tested to deliver in-season nutrients.

The farm has implemented intermediate 4R practices for more than 15 years. Over time, they have progressed to advanced 4R practices and are testing more changes with the help of university researchers.

Some of the 4R practices they’ve improved include:

  • Use multiple nutrient sources in blends instead of relying on single forms of nutrients. They now apply muriate of potash and potassium sulfate together because one takes longer to release than the other.
  • Fine-tuned application rates through split application to reduce leaching and to provide nutrients in time with the crop’s needs.
  • Use a starter application at planting, followed by a dry sidedress application after emergence, followed by a liquid later in the season.
  • Plant a cover crop after every crop to prevent erosion and increase organize matter for the next crop.

The yield range has remained the same at 235 lbs/cwt. Application rates for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium remained the same for 2017 and 2018. Cost per acre improved from $324.19 in 2017 to $318.01 in 2018.

“This documentation confirms that our collaboration with the industry, our university partners and industry allies are delivering economic and environmental benefits to farmers and their communities,” Rosenbusch says. “This aligns with long-term goals.”