After reaching a record high in 2022, U.S. farm exports will plateau amid a world of uncertainties, said the USDA chief economist on Tuesday. The strong dollar and slower economic growth worldwide will be a drag on exports, now forecast by USDA at $193.5 billion this fiscal year, down slightly from the estimated record of $196 billion in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30.
The government will award up to $500 million in grants to increase domestic fertilizer production, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday at a meeting of state agriculture directors. Some of the money will go to projects that would pay off in 2023 or 2024.
The U.S. International Trade Commission on Monday voted to reject steep duties on ammonium nitrate fertilizers from Trinidad and Tobago and Russia, going against a recommendation for tariffs from the Commerce Department.
President Biden will announce three steps to encourage American farmers “to boost production, lower food prices, and feed the world” during a visit to a family farm in northern Illinois on Wednesday afternoon, said the White House. Action by the USDA would be a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to high inflation at home.
U.S. food prices will rise by at least 4.2 percent this year, propelled by high energy and commodity prices, said a University of Missouri think tank on Wednesday. The group’s director said the actual figure could be higher still.
U.S. farmers face sky-high fertilizer prices as the spring planting season approaches, but their supply may be more assured than that of Brazil growers in the wake of economic sanctions on Russia, said three university economists. Brazil imports 85 percent of its fertilizer, with Russia ordinarily supplying one-fifth of it.
The Agriculture Department will launch a $250-million-dollar grant program this summer to support "independent, innovative and sustainable" fertilizer production at home and to reduce reliance on imports. The USDA also said it would launch a public inquiry into concentration in the seed and agricultural input, fertilizer and retail markets.
More than half of America's big farmers expect prices for inputs such as fertilizer and fuel to soar by more than 12 percent in the coming year, a sign of inflation fears felt across the economy, said a poll released by Purdue University on Tuesday. The latest government report pegged inflation at 6.2 percent, the highest in three decades.
Lured by two years of strong market prices, U.S. farmers will expand crop plantings significantly in 2022, with corn area rising by 3 percent despite sharply higher fertilizer costs, said economist Scott Irwin of the University of Illinois on Monday. This stands in contrast to many other early projections that say farmers will shy away from corn, the most widely grown crop in the country, in 2022 because of higher input costs and put more land into crops such as soybeans, wheat and cotton instead.
There is a "reasonable indication" that domestic fertilizer manufacturers are being hurt by the alleged dumping of imported fertilizer in the United States, the U.S. International Trade Commission declared in a unanimous vote. As a result of the ITC vote, the Commerce Department will continue its investigation of imports of urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) from Russia and from Trinidad and Tobago.
Hundreds of thousands of Minnesota residents are drinking water contaminated with elevated levels of nitrate, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group. The state is rolling out new rules to regulate nitrogen fertilizer application and protect groundwater, but advocates say they may not go far enough to keep residents safe.
Mexican drug cartels, operating illegal marijuana farms on public lands, are polluting forests and saddling the federal government with millions of dollars in clean-up costs. Trespass marijuana farms are thought to number in the hundreds of thousands in California alone. The sites “wreak havoc on the land, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of pounds of garbage, leaching caustic chemicals, polluting watersheds, and damaging the habitat of endangered and at-risk species,” reports High Country News.
In Cuba, a movement of rural, organic farms is trying to both feed the island's people and heal its soil, writes Roger Atwood in FERN’s new story with The Guardian. In recent years, Cuba has been romanticized as an island full of urban farms, but in reality the government imports 60-80 percent of the nation's food and farmers make abundant use of agro-industrial chemicals and synthetic fertilizers on their farms. Yet, an increasing number of growers are realizing the virtues of organic.
Marine scientists estimate the low-oxygen "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico covers a record 8,776 square miles, or one-seventh of the basin. "This large dead zone size shows that nutrient pollution, primarily from agriculture and developed land runoff in the Mississippi River watershed, is continuing to affect the nation’s coastal resources and habitats in the Gulf," said NOAA.
The attorneys general of 11 states have sued the EPA for delaying implementation of a chemical-spill rule at industrial sites, including fertilizer plants, by two years. “The set of regulations, called the Chemical Accident Safety Rule, would require industrial facilities to take new steps to prevent accidents and also to conduct more robust examinations of the causes of accidents that do occur,” says Reuters.
"Nothing runs like a Deere," according to an old tagline for the world's largest farm equipment maker, and nothing lends like a Deere, either, says the Wall Street Journal. The company, which lends billions of dollars to farmers who buy its equipment, "is providing more short-term credit for crop supplies such as seeds, chemicals and fertilizer, making it the No. 5 agricultural lender."
Heavy rainfall in May washed the equivalent of an estimated 2,800 rail cars of nitrogen fertilizer down the Mississippi River and will create the third-largest fish-killing "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico in 32 years of monitoring, say federal scientists. They forecast a low-oxygen dead zone of 8,185 square miles, about the size of New Jersey.
The world's most widely grown crop, wheat, could become "a super nitrogen-efficient crop" if plant researchers succeed in cross-breeding a trait called biological nitrification inhibition into the staple grain, says the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Wheat plants use about 30 percent of nitrogen fertilizer applied to fields at present, but if the trait can be introduced into the plants they will become more efficient users and suppress loss of nitrogen from the soil.