"An Iowa Fertilizer Plant Purchase Spurs Antitrust Concerns"

"Koch Industries is making a multi-billion-dollar play to purchase a massive fertilizer production facility in the state; some farmers and lawmakers are raising concerns about monopolization and high prices in an effort to halt the sale."

"When farmer Joshua Manske heard about the acquisition of an Iowa fertilizer plant by Koch Industries in December, he saw it as a “microcosm of what’s going on nationally.”

Manske runs conventional crop operations in Iowa and Minnesota, including managing a 1,000-acre family farm in northern Iowa, and primarily plants a rotation of corn and soybeans. Because corn requires nitrogen fertilizer to grow, Manske is concerned that further consolidation of the fertilizer industry will drive his input prices up more.

“It’s kind of like, ‘Okay, here we go again,’” he said, referring to the acquisition. “You want competition. That’s what’s going to help drive your fertilizer prices where they should be between supply and demand. And if you don’t have that, well, then [prices] struggle. And then it makes everybody struggle.”

The application of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash fertilizers on cropland is a foundation of industrialized agriculture. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nitrogen fertilizer sales increased from 17 pounds per acre in 1960 to 83.6 pounds per acre in 2013. Fertilizer costs comprised nearly 20 percent of U.S. farm costs in 2022, and even more for farmers growing corn and wheat."

Nina Elkadi reports for Civil Eats April 8, 2024.

Source: Civil Eats, 04/12/2024