Iowa Soybean Association president, Robb Ewoldt voiced

Iowa Soybean Association president, Robb Ewoldt voiced his concerns of rising fertilizer prices during a roundtable discussion hosted by U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) last Friday in Vinton. (Submitted photo)

Roundtable discusses impacts of high fertilizer prices

June 16, 2022 | Kriss Nelson

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) President Robb Ewoldt expressed his concerns about record fertilizer costs during a roundtable event last week.

Ewoldt, a farmer near Davenport, took part in the event hosted by U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

In some instances, fertilizer costs have increased by as much as 300% over the last year. These historical costs are causing added stress to farmers’ livelihoods, thinning their margins despite higher commodity prices, and forcing many to rethink their planting and application strategies.

There are concerns farmers will cut back on fertilizer use to offset high input costs. In the end, this will have a direct impact on yields.

“If we’re not profitable buying the fertilizer that produces big yields, and we have to cut back, I am very concerned about what that would do to the world food supply. Especially considering the war between Russia and Ukraine,” says Ewoldt.

What does that mean for the global community?

“Food is security. If people have full stomachs, countries are happy and don’t revolt,” says Ewoldt. “I think we could have a real issue if we don’t address this and keep our production at peak levels.”

Federal and state policymakers and private-sector innovators of new farming technology joined farmers in the conversation to contribute their perspective on the crisis and provide insight on possible solutions to help farmers and the agricultural community.

“As fertilizer costs skyrocket to record levels, topping 14-year highs in some cases, Iowa farmers are facing a crisis,” says Ernst. “Today’s roundtable—bringing together farmers, the heads of some of Iowa’s top agriculture groups, industry professionals, and federal and state policymakers—was an engaging discussion to understand the causes of these historic costs better and to ultimately work toward solutions. I look forward to continuing these conversations and addressing this crisis head-on to ensure Iowa’s farmers, who feed and fuel the world, can continue to thrive.”

Ewoldt says he is thankful to be a part of the conversation but knows there’s a long road ahead for farmers.

“I wish I could say we are going to see a change and make it so the farmer will be profitable next year,” he says. “But I appreciate the fact that Senator Ernst realizes there is an issue. If one thing comes out of the roundtable, this will get taken back to Washington, D.C.” 

Iowa Corn Growers Association President Lance Lillibridge; Iowa Farm Bureau President Brent Johnson; Deputy Secretary Julie Kenney of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; State Senator Dan Zumbach, the chair of the Iowa Senate Agriculture Committee; Dr. Zachary Stewart, an official from the Center for Agriculture-Led Growth at USAID; Jason Troendle, Director of Market Intelligence and Research for the Fertilizer Institute; Chris Behrens, Executive Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Heartland Cooperative; and Amanda De Jong, Head of Government Relations and Policy Engagement for Pivot Bio, an agricultural biotechnology company, also joined the conversation.

Ewoldt, Lillibridge and Johnson also had the opportunity to talk one on one with fertilizer industry professionals. Discussions included tariffs and a need for clarity on the cause of rising prices.

“We were told from our retailers there was a supply shortage. That wasn’t the case. So why are prices so high?  If supply stays the same, demand stays the same, prices should stay the same, and that is not what we are seeing right now,” says Ewoldt. There needs to be more transparency in how the fertilizer companies come up with prices. That is a valid question the fertilizer companies need to answer.”

Ewoldt is hopeful this type of dialogue will continue.

“We need to have more conversations between the farmer, the product’s end-user, and the fertilizer producer,” he says.

The main takeaway from the conversation was a greater understanding of the fertilizer industry and price projections moving forward.

“We better be prepared for the rough times to come,” says Ewoldt.