(Bloomberg) -- After cracking down on concentration in the meat industry, US senators now want the government to scrutinize the power of fertilizer companies.
An upcoming bill from Senators Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, calls for the US Department of Agriculture to examine concentration within the fertilizer industry and any possible “anticompetitive impacts,” according to text of the legislation set to be introduced on Tuesday.
American farmers have questioned the availability and cost swings of crop nutrients, most recently after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year wreaked havoc on world supply chains and sent prices to record highs. The push for a sweeping study of the fertilizer market would follow intense scrutiny of US meatpackers as well as the Biden administration stepping up its oversight of competition within the seed industry.
“With fertilizer being one of the agriculture industry’s highest input costs, it’s problematic farmers have such a limited window into market fluctuations,” Grassley said in an emailed statement. “Our bill will provide farmers in Iowa and across the heartland with needed transparency and certainty as they navigate production costs.”
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The bill, dubbed the Fertilizer Research Act of 2023, also directs the US Department of Agriculture to look at pricing transparency, imports, emerging technologies and other issues.
The Fertilizer Institute, a trade organization that advocates on behalf of the industry, said it supports transparency through improved data collection and analysis. The group also seeks the reestablishment of a fertilizer economist at the USDA to serve as a liaison between the agency and Congress on crop nutrient matters and also to develop reports on global supply, demand and prices.
North America held a 16% share of global fertilizer production as of 2021, with 90% of worldwide usage happening outside the US, according to the institute.
A spokesperson for top fertilizer maker Nutrien Ltd. said the company would review the legislation and declined further comment. Crop nutrient producers CF Industries Holdings Inc. and The Mosaic Co. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Groups representing Iowa corn and soybean farmers back the pending bill, according to Grassley’s office. The senator, who is on the Agriculture Committee, seeks to have the legislation folded into next year’s five-year farm bill reauthorization, though is open to other paths for passage if opportunities arise.
Baldwin, who is on the Senate Commerce Committee, said high fertilizer costs in recent years have hurt profitability of growers as well as rural communities.
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