Twenty-four agricultural organizations are urging USDA to make policy changes that would allow the nation’s farmers to escape being held captive by what they say are highly consolidated fertilizer “cartels.” The groups, representing a variety of activist and social justice efforts, claim fertilizer corporations have been price-gouging farmers with prices near all-time highs, according to a Farm Action news release. The groups filed joint comments following USDA’s request for information about the fertilizer supply chain and competition. The deadline for USDA’s request for comments has been extended a second time until July 15.
According to the groups, farmers have been price-gouged by fertilizer corporations tying fertilizer prices to commodity prices instead of natural market pressures. Fertilizer corporations cite global crises, mounting costs and supply chain issues as the reason for high prices, but their own financial statements and sky-rocketing profits clearly refute these excuses, the groups said in their news release.
The groups claim exorbitant fertilizer prices are leading to reduced crop yields and will exacerbate an impending global food crisis. “If there was a time that we should be supporting our farmers to maximize their yields and produce as much food as they can, it should be now,” the groups said.
The 24 groups also offered recommendations to USDA to decentralize fertilizer production. Among their suggestions is to prevent current and future investments into domestic fertilizer production from the same businesses who already dominate the industry. The government should more actively monitor price-gouging and aggressively prevent mergers between fertilizer corporations, the groups said.
The groups pointed to the 2023 Farm Bill as an opportunity for USDA to reduce the nation’s dependence on a small group of fertilizer corporations by expanding current cover crop programs and increasing funding for research around soil health and cover crop demonstration trials.
The letter signatories include the American Agriculture Movement, American Federation of Government Employees Local 3354, American Grassfed Association; American Indian Mothers Inc. (AIMI), Center for Food Safety, Climate Crisis Policy, Community Food and Justice Coalition, Companeras Campesinas, Dakota Rural Action, Family Farm Defenders, Farmworker Association of Florida, Indiana Farmers Union, National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association, Ohio Farmers Union, Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project Inc., Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, Rural Coalition, Rural Development Leadership Network, Sooner Food Group, Wisconsin Farmers Union and Women Involved in Farm Economics.
Farm Action sent a letter to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in December 2021 calling for an investigation into this sector on suspicion of anti-competitive practices.
Retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN remain near all-time highs. Despite historically higher prices, fertilizer prices for the first week of June were mostly lower for the second week in a row.