Archive for Wednesday, February 7, 2001

Fertilizer prices soar for farmers

Natural gas cost is culprit

February 7, 2001

This year's green thumb is going to cost farmers a little more.

Dick Lind, plant manager of Farmland Industries' nitrogen plant in Lawrence, said recent increases in natural gas prices have fueled a hike in fertilizer production costs.

"In making a ton of anhydrous, about 80 percent of the cost is natural gas," Lind said.

For example, he said that last year at this time, the nitrogen plant was paying about $2 for 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas.

"This year it's bounced all the way to a little over $10 per 1,000 cubic feet," Lind said.

For farmers, Lind said, this means the anhydrous they paid about $125 a ton for last year will cost them about $325 this year.

One ton of anhydrous will cover about 10 acres.

"It makes it tough for us, it makes it tough for the farmer and it makes it tough for everybody that's a consumer of natural gas," Lind said.

The price hike is also reflected in the manufacture of urea ammonia nitrate, a liquid fertilizer used mainly on pastures, fields and wheat, Lind said.

Bill Murr, who farms near McLouth, said he's been keeping an eye on fertilizer prices. Murr also sells fertilizer.

"It's going to be real interesting," Murr said. "I think there's going to be some imported products from some other countries that will free up the supply."

But prices will remain high, he predicted.

"I don't think we'll see much softening of price," Murr said.

Roxie McGraw, of McGraw Fertilizer, said this year's fertilizer prices were a surprise.

"It's selling higher than I've ever seen it, and I've been here for 16 years," McGraw said.

So far, she said, it looks like the supply will be adequate for area farmers, but she said, shortages do happen.

"It wouldn't be the first time," McGraw said. "That's not uncommon in fertilizers."

Experts caution, however, that using less fertilizer to save money isn't the prudent thing to do.

"Farmers should be very careful about cutting back on the amount of fertilizer that they put on," said Sy Nyhart, Leavenworth County extension agent. "They may end up costing themselves more in production than the cost of the fertilizer will be."

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