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Russia's freeze on fertilizer exports is yet another challenge for Mountain West farmers

J. Stephen Conn
Flickr Creative Commons

News Brief

Russian officials have said they will suspend fertilizer exports.

Fertilizer costs were already on the rise over the last few years, but this latest move by Russia — one of the world’s largest fertilizer exporters — could make things worse for U.S. farmers.

Russia had previously stopped exporting one type of fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, which officials there said was to protect its farmers from already high costs. But this latest move comes after Russian threats of retaliation over Western sanctions.

It’s unclear whether the export ban will include all countries, or just certain Western nations. Canada is a major supplier of U.S. fertilizers, but a decrease in the global market could still boost costs.

Matt Dorsey farms in south-central Idaho. He already had concerns about inflated fertilizer and gas prices before this announcement.

“It’s hard to even anticipate or guess the rise in costs at this point,” he said.

That doesn’t account for supply chain issues — or drought.

Sean Ellis with the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation highlighted yet another challenge: the labor force.

“Yeah, farmers are having a harder time now than ever finding labor,” he said.

Ellis said there is some good news: he hasn’t heard of any large movement to leave fields empty this spring. However, some farmers have said they will change what crops they grow.

Ultimately, Ellis said the increasing costs will lead to higher prices in the store, even if farmers don’t make any more money. That’s because higher costs are squeezing everyone along the supply chain, from farmers to distributors to consumers.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Madelyn Beck is Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.