Farm groups in Iowa are calling on President Joe Biden to lift tariffs on fertilizers, which the groups say are driving up prices and hurting farmers and consumers.
In a letter last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Growers Association and National Corn Growers Association urged Biden to remove or reduce tariffs on phosphate fertilizer imports from Morocco.
The U.S. International Trade Commission imposed a 20% tariff, a tax on imports, on phosphate fertilizers from Morocco in 2021 after a request by U.S. producer Mosaic Co., which said it was harmed by government subsidies on Moroccan exports. Now, with skyrocketing fertilizer prices creating financial problems for farmers, farmer groups want these tariffs removed.
While high commodity prices have kept most farmers from falling into the red this year, Iowa Federation of Agricultural Bureau President Brent Johnson said sustained high fertilizer prices could have affect planting decisions and yield volumes in the future.
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“If we have to make some adjustments because of fertilizer prices, that’s potentially going to reduce some of the production when we’re talking about global food security issues,” Johnson said.
Prices for urea, potash, phosphate and other fertilizers hit record highs in the spring due to a combination of factors including high natural gas prices, international shortages and oil caps. export and the war in Ukraine. Prices fell in June, according to a report from Progressive Farmer.
Johnson said he and other members of the Iowa Agricultural Bureau met with Iowa congressional leaders and Biden administration officials last week to discuss input price concerns. He said the administration had been receptive to the idea.
“The meetings we’ve had so far have gone pretty well,” Johnson said. “And so time will tell. We are hopeful at this point.
Johnson said he hopes Biden will lift the tariff similar to the tariffs that were suspended on Southeast Asia solar panels last month. In this case, Biden used national security reasons to lift the tariffs, and farmer groups said high input prices could be viewed the same way.
“It’s my opinion, I think it’s a widely held opinion, that food is more related to national security than solar panel electricity generation,” Johnson said.
Lance Lillibridge, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, said the tariffs create an unfair market for farmers and do not keep the price of domestically-made fertilizers low.
“When you have a company that wants to participate in the global market…but then asked for tariffs to be applied to imports entering the United States to protect their home market, that’s not a fair market,” a- he declared.
The groups’ request came about a week after the U.S. International Trade Commission decided not to raise duties on urea ammonium nitrate from Trinidad and Tobago and Russia. Farmers’ groups have also lobbied against the addition of these tariffs.
Farmer groups join a growing list of politicians and groups urging the administration to suspend or remove tariffs on fertilizers. In mid-July, U.S. Senators from Iowa Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Republicans, and Republican Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Randy Feenstra, signed a letter calling on Biden to drop the same imports. Democratic Representative Cindy Axne joined the same representatives in a similar demand in March.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Grassley said he had urged the Commerce Department to remove tariffs on phosphate imports from Morocco, and he also applauded the International Trade Commission’s decision not to not add duties on imports from Trinidad and Tobago and Russia.
“I’m very sensitive to what they’re trying to do, and some government policies are keeping fertilizer prices abnormally high,” Grassley said.