Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityUnprecedented fertilizer prices linger just weeks from planting season | KGAN
Close Alert

Unprecedented fertilizer prices linger just weeks from planting season

Urea pellets left behind after an early fertilization in Steve Swenka's field.{p}{/p}
Urea pellets left behind after an early fertilization in Steve Swenka's field.

Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

A bitter cold wind Monday isn't keeping farmer Steve Swenka from thinking of warmer days ahead.

He's weeks away from when he'd usually start planting his corn, soybean, oat and hay crops, but he's already started preparing.

"This is how the fertilizer is applied, the truck comes and fills the cart," he says. "You can kind of see some of the fertilizer left from when I was done, this is just straight nitrogen."

The tiny white pellets of urea are indispensable for his crops, but he's already steeling himself for what they'll cost him.

"I've been farming over 30 years already and never in my lifetime have prices even come close," he says.

Fertilizer prices have skyrocketed this year to record levels.

"Last year we were paying $340 a ton for nitrogen in the form of urea, this year it's a thousand," Swenka says.

The soaring costs prompted Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller's office to launch an investigation in late February. The AG reported anhydrous ammonia prices were up 315%, liquid nitrogen was up 290%, and the urea Swenka counts on is up in price 214%.

"We've heard it's a supply issue, we've heard it's the war in Russia," Swenka says of what's possibly behind the rise.

"We want to find out what happened," AG Miller said when starting his inquiry.

The AG's office tells Iowa's News Now that the market study, headed by researchers at ISU, won't have results for several months.

Combined with higher prices for fuel, plus seed and machinery costs, Swenka says the input expenses for farmers are going to lead to increased cost on the other end.

“The fertilizer increases could hit the pocketbooks of all consumers in the form of higher food prices,” Miller said in February. “I hope to use my presidency to draw attention to this crisis.”

"To balance that out and remain profitable, it's gonna affect the whole world and prices are gonna have to go up," Swenka says. "There's just no way around that."

He has a slight advantage: his Angus cattle. He says he'll use the manure to offset some of his fertilizer needs, but it still won't be enough for all his crop land. He knows other farmers will change up their crop, planting less corn to save on the costs, or trying to get by with less fertilizer.

Comment bubble

"We're right at the point where the fertilizers gonna go on," Swenka says. "If some relief doesn't happen soon, we're gonna be stuck at the prices in front of us right now."

Loading ...