Fertilizer industry faces scrutiny in upcoming bill

The farmer-backed Fertilizer Research Act of 2023 directs USDA to look at pricing transparency after market fluctuations in recent years.

Bloomberg, Content provider

December 11, 2023

2 Min Read
Senator Grassley speaking into microphone
CRACKING DOWN: Senators Chuck Grassley and Tammy Baldwin will introduce a bill Tuesday that takes aim at competition within the fertilizer industry.Ting Shen/Bloomberg

By Kim Chipman

After cracking down on concentration in the meat industry, U.S. senators now want the government to scrutinize the power of fertilizer companies.

An upcoming bill from Senators Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, calls for the US Department of Agriculture to examine concentration within the fertilizer industry and any possible “anticompetitive impacts,” according to text of the legislation set to be introduced on Tuesday. 

American farmers have questioned the availability and cost swings of crop nutrients, most recently after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year wreaked havoc on world supply chains and sent prices to record highs. The push for a sweeping study of the fertilizer industry would follow intense scrutiny of U.S. meatpackers as well as the Biden administration stepping up its oversight of competition within the seed industry.

“With fertilizer being one of the agriculture industry’s highest input costs, it’s problematic farmers have such a limited window into market fluctuations,” Grassley said in an emailed statement. “Our bill will provide farmers in Iowa and across the heartland with needed transparency and certainty as they navigate production costs.”

Top fertilizer makers Nutrien Ltd., CF Industries Holdings Inc. and Mosaic Co. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the pending legislation.

The bill, called the Fertilizer Research Act of 2023, also directs USDA to look at pricing transparency, imports, emerging technologies and other issues. 

Groups representing Iowa corn and soybean farmers back the measure, according to Grassley’s office. The Iowa senator plans to push to include the legislation in next year’s five-year farm bill reauthorization, though is open to other paths for passage if opportunities arise.

High fertilizer costs in recent years have hurt profitability of growers as well as rural communities, according to Baldwin. “I’m proud to work with Senator Grassley to improve the fertilizer market so our farmers can afford to continue feeding America.” 

Grassley is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Baldwin is on Senate Commerce. 

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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