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There is a fertilizer shortage possible next year, with some production issues tied to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
STAFFORD, N.Y. — We've heard of oil prices rising due to inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and supply chain issues. Now add another crucial sector of the economy and our well-being into the mix of those impacted.
That would be the farmers who grow our food 2 On Your Side got some of their down to earth perspectives in Genesee County.
Down on the Branton Farm in the Town of Stafford, they've still got diesel fuel in the big tank, and more fertilizer was just delivered Friday in the midst of spring planting season. But day by day, they are also watching events unfold overseas in some countries referred to as the breadbaskets of Europe and assessing the potential effect on their agricultural business.
"The situation over in Russia and Ukraine, that counts for 17 percent of the corn export in the world. Well, that's not going to happen right now, so that's going to have an effect on the price of corn," Donn Branton said.
They try to plan crop planting a year or two in advance but know the global market for what they and other farmers produce can change rapidly.
Branton points out: "China comes in to the marketplace, and they do things in a big way. Sometimes you read market reports where there's been a sale to 'unknown,' and eventually it comes out who it was. But we certainly pay attention to what's happening in the world."
Technology has made farming equipment, such as a larger planter, more efficient and effective. For example, a machine can soak seeds with fertilizer as they go into the soil.
But there is a growing focus on supply chain availability of materials they need to produce those crops such as corn, soybean, or even string beans on their 1,700 acres. For example, there is a concern suppliers may eventually run out of fertilizer and its components like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash period. That may happen sometime next year.
Dave DeGolyer of the Western New York Crop Management Association says, "20 percent of the fertilizer products being produced in the world for export is from the Russian and Ukraine area; that's a huge ripple effect for the world."
Donn Branton provided an example, as well, with pesticides and herbicides that they say they also depend upon for greater crop production.
"Roundup has gone from say $12 to $15 a gallon up to 60 plus a gallon in 9 months," he said.
DeGolyer says even some organic farmers cannot get any chicken manure.
They could possibly make more money on certain in-demand crops such as wheat which is also largely grown in Ukraine and Russia. However, it's a farming financial balancing act according to Donn's son, Chad Branton, who operates the farm with his father.
"Commodity prices have gone up some to compensate, but in the end our bottom line, even with those higher prices, is going to be about the same," Chad Branton said. "This is the highest I've ever seen fuel, the highest for fertilizer. Seed costs are pretty consistent, but they've gone up as well."
Donn Branton mentioned some sticker shock with the cost of diesel fuel to run his tractors and other farm vehicles. He tried to stock up last December but may need more.
"I looked at the invoice yesterday just for curiosity; it was $2.45. I talked with the supplier, and he said yesterday it was $5.40, so we got a good supply to get us half or two thirds of the way through the season."
DeGolyer made this plea to New York State and its lawmakers and its Agriculture Department, which did not offer any comment.
"Work with the farmers," DeGolyer said. "Talk to them and say, 'Hey, what can we do to help make your industry profitable? Because we need you.' "
Chad Branton added: "Used farm equipment prices are way up right now, as well, as land prices are up. And that on top of high input costs. I could see a lot of people in the higher age range thinking to themselves, 'Is it worth it anymore?' Or, 'Do I want to keep doing this?' "
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