Ammonia tariff could hurt farmers, food prices

A corn industry leader says the recent tariff petition by top U.S. ammonia producer CF Industries could spell bad news for the food chain and U.S. farmers.

Missouri Corn Growers Association President Jay Schutte tells Brownfield four fertilizer companies control about 75 percent of the market.

“And I think they’re just exploiting an opportunity with some of the pricing that they’re doing now,” he said. “And it’s going to be even worse if you put a tariff on top of it.”

Schutte said he payed $488 a ton for anhydrous ammonia last year and around $1250 this fall. He says it’ll cost $1480 a ton to apply anhydrous this spring and a tariff on the fertilizer’s imports would add ‘well over’ another $100 to the price tag.

He said the recent spike in fertilizer cost is pushing farmers to apply less in their fields. And head of the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, Pat Westhoff, said its projections for this year’s corn crop were lowered two bushels an acre because of lower expected fertilizer use.

Schutte said the food chain is already fragile because of the elevated input prices causing lower corn production estimates and a tariff on ammonia imports would make things worse.

“We don’t need to be throwing in unknown variables out there to mess with that,” he said. “We had the highest food inflation that we’ve had in, I think, 15 years last year [at] six percent. So, do we really want to increase food prices that much more.”

The Missouri farmer said he’s thinking about planting fewer corn acres this spring, in favor of soybeans.

Jay Schutte Interview

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