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Iowa farmers fear fertilizer shortage: 'It's simply not available'

Supply chain stresses sprout up for western Iowa farmers
Posted at 6:28 PM, Mar 23, 2022

ATLANTIC, Iowa (KMTV) — Planting season is just around the corner for farmers, but there's already a lot of stress sprouting up. With Russia as a top fertilizer exporter, prices have shot to record highs in the past month.

Corn and soybean farmer Jon Bakehouse faces a daunting question. In years past, he's never had to ask for what he could get or what he could apply to his crops within the usual agriculture system. But now, the situation has completely shifted.

"For the first time, we're talking about 'it's simply not available, fertilizer is simply not available, some chemicals are simply not available.' For the first time, you kind of recognize you're standing on a three-legged stool with one of the legs starting to weaken," Bakehouse said.

Bakehouse says his biggest concern is timing: it's too late to consider alternative forms of fertilizer for a corn crop.

"If, for instance, we were only able to get half of our fertilizer needs, it would cut into the corn yields substantially, probably at least 30%, perhaps higher depending on the year," Bakehouse said.

Cattle and crop farmer Zak Kennedy is expecting to pay double for his nitrogen fertilizer, saying the crisis' timing is adding "more stress."

"Going ahead, we're going to use more manure, we're trying to use other sources of fertility. Going ahead, we're also maybe gonna have to look at different crop rotations, maybe bringing in a small grain to stretch our cycles a little bit and not rely so much on commercial fertilizer to get things done," Kennedy said.

Amidst all the uncertainty, both Bakehouse and Kennedy hope farmers recognize how dependent they are on imports from other countries.

"We're very dependent on suppliers and buyers, and so what I've been most interested in is growing our own nutrients, using livestock to reduce some of that reliance on the supply chain," Bakehouse said.

"It's hard to figure out right where you need to be and making some money out of it too," Kennedy said.

Kennedy says the world is also short on grains, corn, soybeans and wheat. With many of these grown in Ukraine, the prices will likely remain volatile for the time being.

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