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Michigan legislators pass resolution calling for lower fertilizer prices
 
By Kevin Walker
Michigan Correspondent

LANSING, Mich. – Both the Michigan state House and Senate have passed resolutions calling on Congress to act to lower prices on commercial fertilizer, a major input cost for farmers.
The state House and Senate both held hearings last month on the subject to get feedback from farmers as well as industry officials. State Sen. Curt VanderWall was among the first to comment during the senate hearing held on May 12. “We’ve heard from farmers that are considering not planting this year, not fertilizing this year due to the high cost of the fertilizer,” VanderWall said. “We wanted to show our support and add our voice to the conversation . . .. The prices are very alarming to our farmers.”
According to the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Rebecca Park, the purpose of a resolution is to get the attention of the U.S. Congress. A resolution has no force of law. Park said that some farmers this year had already contracted for fertilizer delivery at last year’s prices and have been able to escape the high prices this year.
“But not everyone did and now we have supply chain issues, so there is a question about whether some farmers can get fertilizer at all,” Park said. Park also said there are not enough truckers right now and not enough workers in general in the agriculture industry. “From my perspective, what I’m worried about is next year,” she added. 
John Delmotte, a farmer in Dundee, Mich., in the southeastern portion of the Lower Peninsula, was one of the people who contracted for fertilizer last year and was able to escape the skyrocketing fertilizer prices this year, for the most part. “I’m not a big believer in cutting back on what fertilizer we use,” Delmotte said. He grows corn, soybeans and wheat on about 1,100 acres.
“Most of my costs for 2022 I was able to contract for, but I did have to buy a little more,” he said. “Last year I paid $375 a ton for potash, this year I paid $825 for what I had to buy this year.” The real consequences, he said, is that he will likely put off buying some equipment. “Right now, we’re sucking our gut in and there’s no guarantee that our crops are going to be profitable in the future.”
Delmotte said the problem is not just the cost of fertilizer, but the cost of everything, including fuel. He’s doing OK, he said. He worries about others, such as seniors who might be on a fixed income and who might have to decide whether to buy food or pay for a prescription.
The head of Michigan State University’s department of agriculture and resource economics, Scott Swinton, testified at the senate hearing. The resolution in question, Senate Resolution No 139, calls on Congress to pull back on tariffs on fertilizer that it imposed on Morocco and Russia in 2020 and 2021. 
The problem, Swinton said, is that tariffs were put in place at a time when the price of fertilizer was far less in Michigan due to a smaller crop size brought on by heavy rains in 2020. “I wonder if the ITC (International Trade Commission) would have made the same decision if fertilizer prices were as high as they are today,” he said.
A farmer from western Michigan, Peter Conrad, also testified at the senate hearing. He said his main fertilizer for the corn, wheat, soybeans and some other smaller crops – like asparagus and green beans – he grows is urea. He farms about 500 acres. In 2019, the price for urea was $360 a ton. This year it is $927 a ton, he said. “So, what does that mean on our farm?” he asked. “We’ll probably use 40 tons of urea this year. Our costs will probably go up $22,000.”
Conrad said he was concerned that fertilizer companies might be charging what they think the customer can bear, based on current commodity prices. “Are they just charging what they think we can stand at the farm level, or is it the effect of tariffs? All these things could be coming into play.”
6/14/2022