High gas prices and the Biden administration’s reluctance to tap new oil sources can lead to serious problems for American farmers, who pay the price, says an article posted on The American Conservative’s website on May 17.

The article “The Global Fertilizer Crisis” by John Hirschauer says two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the global food crisis shows no signs of slowing.

U.S. food prices are reportedly up a staggering 8.8 percent from last year. The global impact has been worse.  

The article notes that Ukraine’s exit from global markets and the imposition of sanctions on Russia have raised grain prices, putting the populations of third-world importers like Nigeria at risk of starvation.  But the effects of grain shortages, significant as they are, reportedly pale in comparison to those of a global fertilizer shortage.  In addition to its pivotal role in producing sustainable crop yields, fertilizer is a one of the leading determinants of global food prices, the article says.

Russia is the world’s largest exporter of nitrogen-based fertilizer and with the world cracking down on Russian exports, countries are turning to alternative sources to try to feed their populations. 

The article notes that President Biden recently announced his intention to allocate an additional US$250 million to spur domestic fertilizer production, “but given the way synthetic fertilizer is produced, the funds are unlikely to make an immediate impact and could be hampered by the administration’s war on oil.”

The article says High gas prices and the Biden administration’s reluctance to tap new oil sources can lead to serious problems for American farmers.  Absent significant imports, it’s unlikely an extra US$250 million in funding for domestic producers will close the gap caused by the war in Ukraine, according to the article. 

Even as American fertilizer imports from Russia return to something like pre-sanctions levels in the coming months, there is no guarantee things will improve for American farmers, the article says, noting that more than 40 percent of the world’s fertilizer is traded, so disruptions to other countries’ fertilizer production will have inflationary effects on food and fertilizer prices at home.  As other countries and the European Union continue their boycotts of Russian fertilizer, their attendant focus on domestic production and alternative import sources reportedly could have the effect of further increasing input costs for American farmers.

It is already reaching crisis levels on the ground.  A fifth-generation farmer from New Mexico named Mike Berry told Reuters in March that he “recently paid US$680 a ton for liquid nitrogen to fertilize his corn crop.”  That is reportedly more than 230 percent higher than the cost of the same last year.  The article notes that if the international boycott of Russian fertilizer continues and the Biden administration remains averse to ramping up domestic oil production, there is a chance things get much worse for America’s farmers before they get better.  “We’ll all pay the price,’ the author concludes.