If it wasn’t painful enough for Americans at the pump or the grocery store, alarming news from Europe is telling the US to expect an agricultural shortage. The panic button has been pushed by Yara International, an agribusiness company in Kyiv. Yara has found itself between a rock and a hard place thanks to Putin’s invasion, as it sells agronomy products to Ukraine while buying raw materials from Russia.
Svein Tore Holsether, a spokesperson from Yara, posted on the company website:
“Yara has been directly hit by the conflict both by having employees in the war zone in Ukraine and by a missile that hit the Yara office building in Kyiv. Fortunately, none of our employees were physically harmed. At the same time, we are sourcing a considerable amount of essential raw materials from Russia, used for food production worldwide.”
Just to pound home the point of desperation, David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, posted on Twitter: “Just when you thought it could not get any worse … Now, food, fuel & transport costs will skyrocket. An absolute catastrophe.”
Yes, Europe will be hit with a tsunami of intended and unintended consequences of war. But where does impending doom in agriculture – no feed, no fertilizer, no crops – in the UK and beyond take American farmers and ranchers?
US Will Feel the Pinch
Clay Andrews is a sixth-generation crop farmer in Warren County, Indiana. Since 1883, the Andrews’ have planted, tended, and harvested soybeans and varieties of corn, earning the Hoosier Homestead award for agricultural use land in the same family for over 100 years. Like most crop farmers, the Andrews’ have weathered significant events over the decades, including the great depression and the farm crisis in the 1980s when the Federal Reserve (by reducing interest rates) was the catalyst for land values dropping up to 60% in some parts of the Midwest. By 1985, the glut of commodities and US export decline created a farm debt of $215 billion – double that of just three years prior.
Andrews is not alarmed, but rather, cautious in the approach to this year’s crops as land is currently being prepped for early April planting:
“Russia exports nearly 80% of all US potash fertilizer, where fertilizer is already in short supply because of transportation issues. Not to mention how Russia is the world’s second-largest producer of crude oil.
An example on our farm is we prepaid our anhydrous last fall at roughly $750/ton; earlier this year, it peaked at $1,500/ton. I know quite a few farmers in our area are switching a considerable amount of what would be corn acres to soybeans. Any rational mind can assume that this will lead to a short supply of corn after this year’s crop.”
Europe Wants Promises
Holsether is sending up the warning flares that what happens in Europe could become a worldwide famine. Just days ago, he spoke on the record with the BBC. “Things are changing by the hour,” he warned and again highlighted supply chain issues and fertilizer materials.
And the American farmer waits and watches. As Andrews explained, “If fertilizer is in short supply and weed-killing chemicals are in short supply now, what does that do to the yields and quality of our crops into the future? If average yields go down, say, 20% across the board, that’s 20% less food for the world.” The abundance of America’s farms and ranches can feed this nation. But can the US respond when cries for help come in from around the world?
~ Read more from Sarah Cowgill.
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