Logistical issues impacting fertilizer industry

Challenges with rail and barge transportation are a top concern for the fertilizer industry.

KJ Johnson, President of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association tells Brownfield their retailers are closely watching the potential for a railroad strike since a lot of potash comes to the Midwest from Canada via rail.

“We signed a letter with a lot of national and state groups asking the administration to please get involved in this to defer a strike because we know this won’t just affect the ag input industry, it will affect every sector of the economy.”

Rail worker unions recently rejected a tentative agreement brokered by President Biden, raising the possibility of a strike. They have until mid-November to reach a new agreement regarding compensation, working conditions and sick-leave policies.  

Johnson says barge transportation challenges because of low water levels on the Mississippi River are another issue, but less of a concern for their members short-term.   

“Most of our guys have the vast majority of dry fertilizers in their sheds already. There may be a few who are a little lower on supplies than they want to be, but I feel like we are in pretty good shape since a lot of our dry fertilizer already came up the river this summer.”  

He says the river issue is more of a challenge for the grain industry trying to transport this year’s harvest south to the Gulf of Mexico for export.

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