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New threat to food system: pricey fertilizer

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posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 01:16 PM

New threat to food system: pricey fertilizer

It powered the Green Revolution and helped save millions from starvation, but now one of the most important tools on the farm is being priced out of reach for many of the world's growers.

With food prices soaring and stocks thinning, the world is in need of bumper harvests but once one of most bountiful of commodities, fertilizer, is becoming scarce and expensive.
(visit the link for the full news article)

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 01:16 PM
I heard a rancher call in to C2C AM a few months ago about this issue. He said that in the past several years, the price of fertilizer used for hay and alfalfa feed fields had increased five fold. He also said that in many areas, even if you are one of the rare farmers or ranchers who could afford that price increase, the suppliers simply weren't carrying enough fertilizer due to risks surrounding getting stuck with the increased costs in the event nobody bought the fertilizer. His prediction was that there would be a dramatic drop in beef prices around the end of the year as many ranchers will find that they simply don't have the abillity to feed their herds thanks to significantly lower feed yields from crops that will go without fertilizer. After that big sell-off, however, he said expect beef prices to skyrocket as the supply simply won't be there next year to meet the demand for beef. He also said that he expects this to also hit chicken farmers, hog farmers, etc... virtually all livestock is going to be affected negatively thanks to the shortage and insane price of fertilizer.

The sick thing here is that this isn't a shortage caused price hike. There's no explanation whatsoever for it. The soaring prices are what has affected supply, purely because the suppliers know that they won't sell as much at that price, so they don't carry as much. This is completely the fault of speculative pressure pricing the commodity above the reach of the average farmer.

Once again, I'm quite sad to report that (as seems to be happening far too frequently to me lately) I'm starting to see where some of the folks on ATS are coming from when they paint our food situation as a corporate conspiracy. Big agribusiness really does look like they're behind this, anticipating that by pricing fertilizer out of reach they can force many of the remaining family farms and ranches out of business. It's actually physically sickening.
(visit the link for the full news article)

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 01:20 PM
It's corporate racketeering. What you're witnessing is an amoral shakedown of legitimate farmers, and by consequence all of the middle and lower classes. And it's not just corporate mafia, states are in on this too, because for corporations to be able to pull these stunts there has to be a permissive legal environment and a government willing to look the other way. Or be up to it's neck in the corruption.

Controlling food is the most direct way to influence populations.

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 02:34 PM
This is nothing new, but it is coming to light now. I farm cereal crops and I have been effected by rising fertilizer prices for years. You can pretty much expect it to go up every year. I usually price mine before the next planting year.

Shortages usually result in people buying product at the last minute or changing crop rotations into something that needs more fertilizer.

Fertilizer companies are doing amazing right now. Check out Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan's stock ( symbol POT ).

It is around 220 ish now per share. You could have got it a few months ago well below 100.

The same goes for Agrium and Mosaic.

Sometimes fertilizer prices go down when you least expect them to as well. It is hard to predict. I imagine they will be going up for quite some time as long as oil remains high. If oil tanks, fertilizer will as well. Maybe not as fast though.

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 02:39 PM
By the way, fertilizer companies priced the product higher after the run up in commodities. It is pretty much a cash grab on the hot agriculture sector, much like every other company is trying to do.

Take a look at John Deere products (and Deere stock ).

Fertilizer is largely priced based on oil. And there is a market for fertilizer now matter who you are as a farmer.

Big farmers have the same bills, only larger. To say this is a scheme to force the little farmers out is a bit much. The big guys pay the same amount.

If there is any scheme, it may be buying it all up. I know there were some shortages around my place. Hard to get the product when you need it, unless you bought in advance.

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 02:44 PM
The gov't needs to get the speculators under control before the whole thing gets out of hand.

In a way, kinda like Monopoly, win all the money, nobody wants to play and the money is worthless.

An ignorant question from an amateur gardener - who doesn't have a problem with petroleum derived fertilizers and "non-organic" food.

If you simply planted the crops without fertilizers, what kind of yield would you have?

Would it be enough that you could skip fertilizer this year and still make a living?

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 02:48 PM
Organic yields are a touchy subject. Yes it is possible to get decent yields, but in my neck of the woods, I have not seen comparable yields. Under the right conditions, you can get a decent crop, but those are ideal. I mean like years of raw organic material in the soil.

It seems to go downhill. They get a good price for their product though. More than others.

Here is a good graph to illustrate the run up in fertilizer. This is Potash Corp. I hope the image shows up, if not view the link.

5 Year Chart

Link to graph

The world could get by without modern fertilizers, but grain prices would EXPLODE.

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 02:51 PM
reply to post by Dulcimer

Has the practice of using cheap, very effective, easily obtained manure become almost non-existant in commercial farming because of issues like the E. Coli scares? If I remember from my agriculture electives in college, chicken crap is basically pure nitrogen and cow flop is full of nitrigen, plus it's bulk aids in soil water retention.

Also, what ever happened to crop rotation with every 4th season planting a non-harvest drop which will then be tilled under to boost nutrients in the field the next planting season? When I was a kid it was basically a universal practice for them to plant green chiles one season, then either corn or pintos the second season, then a crop of cotton which didn't require much in the way of soil nutrients, then the 4th season was generally a mellon or cucumber crop that would be allowed to rot in the field (God did it stink around our place by September), then plowed under to prepare the soil for the next season's chile crop. The last few times I was back home I noticed hardly anybody was doing that anymore and they were instead just planting that year's predicted big cash crop and liquid fertilizing as needed based on whatever the crop was. Seems like a return to the old fashioned way just might get us out of this mess.

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 03:02 PM
There is very little use of manure.... around here it is basically not existent. There is some use from a large animal facility that will put it on your field, but you have to be within 4 miles or something.

Basically there would not be enough waste to cover the farmland anyway. Not even close.

Around here, we only get one crop per year. That is why we need the fertilizers to boost the land.

The only ones that will work a crop under are organic farmers, or farmers converting a field into a crop producing field.

Natural methods could probably work well in areas that get multiple crops off per year, but not here. Too cold and short of a growing season.

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 03:07 PM
Could it be that the demonization of fertilizer as a constituent of ANFO has caused rediculously tight controls on it? I don't know, just posing a question.

For noncommercial, that is, smaller sized farms and gardens, those who live near the sea have a perfect source of nicely balanced fertilizer in the form of seaweed. When we moved here, I brought testing equipment and tested various seaweed meals. Some samples I sent to an analytical lab on the west coast that I used to work with. All six of the types of seaweed I tested had nearly the same composition and all in the right percentages to augment most plant growth -- even the trace elements, such as boron and molybdemum. We made our own growth solution by grinding dried seaweed into power and then making an infusion by putting several pounds of it into a barrel of water. Even now, as I plant new crops, I dig a lot of powdered/crumbled seaweed into the soil. Very difficult to burn roots in this way also, as can be done with ammonium nitrate.

I suppose this could be commercially produced for farmers.. I think the production and refinement of seaweed is probably the hold-up on that. We used to rinse the seaweed to try get the crusted salt off, and no longer do that. I live in a salt environment, and those seeds and plants that can't take it, well, I guess it's good to get the attrition out of the way prior to investing valuable water to their growth.


posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 03:08 PM
reply to post by Dulcimer

Curious if you even grow "green manure" crops such as mustard for tilling into the soil for the followng year?

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 03:45 PM
No, I do not do anything like that. I think the seaweed stuff is pretty interesting, and you are right, there is a risk of damage (burning) with the crops if too much is applied. There is a line between between yields and damage.

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 07:05 PM
Dulcimer, out of curiosity have you read "The Secret Life of Plants"? There are several chapters which cover organic farming and sheds some light on high yield natural agriculture.
The idea I ended up with is that organic farming is better than industrialized farming, but it takes an intuitive and knowledgeable farmer to pull it off, as it becomes a more complex process than the chemical heavy modern methods. Farming is a pretty scientific process though, and results will probably vary as the variables themselves are plentifull.

I still say it's a shakedown on the smaller guys, big business is more resilient and probably gets bulk discounts, although the situation is probably mitigated due to cooperative farming.

posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 10:03 PM
No, I have never read that book. There is a lot that goes into producing a quality crop, especially a quality crop on a large scale.

I hope input prices go down in the future though. Farming has always had razor thin margins... if commodity prices go down now..... that could be your conspiracy.

It will not be profitable at all if commodities drop but oil remains etc.


posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 10:24 PM
Last year I paid $138/tn for 28-0-0-5 fert., this year it was $340/tn. Last year I paid $320/tn. for muriate of potash, this year I paid $620/tn. Fertilizer has gone through the roof. A few years ago I started cutting back on the amount that I put on the crops. I would fertilize every other year rotated between half my crop. You still need nitrogen to make a good corn crop so you can't cut back much there. I talked to some of the employees at the fertilizer dealers that I deal with and they told me that they were not spreading very much fertilizer this year.

There have been a lot of chicken houses put up in my area the last few years, so a few farmers that have access to the manure are using it for fertilizer. There is just not enough for everybody, just a few lucky ones.

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