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Indy - Guy
Indy - Guy PowerDork
5/6/22 10:43 a.m.

I've seen a few headline and read an article or two that seems to indicate we might be in a near perfect storm for increased food costs and potential shortages.  Contributing factors:

  • supply chain issues
  • increased transportation costs due to higher fuel costs
  • China stopped exporting fertilizer in July 2021
  • War in Ukraine
  • Ukraine is a major fertilizer and grain exporter

link to an article from Axios on Fertilizer

If farmers use less fertilizer, yields are predicted to be decreased for the upcoming harvest season.

Is there anything to this?  If there is, what can we do to weather the storm and perhaps help others out?

RevRico UltimaDork
5/6/22 10:52 a.m.

For as many years as we've been paying farmers NOT to farm, and as much food we produce that goes essentially from the field to the dumpster, I think we're just being prepped for massive price gouges just because. Or possibly fruits and veggies that aren't as Instagram perfect looking finally making their way into stores instead of landfills.


With fairly limited exception, mostly on stuff we shouldn't be buying or eating anyway, I don't see this having much of an effect on my household. Between the gardens on my street and the farms and farm stands nearby that don't use fertilizer anyway, only things we'll really have issue getting is processed sugar and salt filled crap. So maybe the kids will have an issue. 

NickD MegaDork
5/6/22 11:15 a.m.

I know that chicken farms out west have been slaughtering their entire flocks because of avian flu. My sister, who raises chickens and has her ear to the ground on these things, says that the actual reason is that they can't get the feed or its too expensive, and so they are instead claiming avian flu so that they can get the insurance money. A lot of them are not replacing their flocks either. It doesn't help that a lot of farm land has been converted to solar farms (and some places don't allow it to revert to farmland even after the solar panels are removed because they are considered hazardous materials) and a lot of corn is going towards ethanol. Also add in that we were getting a lot of fertilizer and grain from Russia, that's now out the window, and we were also having a lot of potash shipped by rail from Canada, and that was disrupted by a big Canadian Pacific Railroad strike 

Streetwiseguy MegaDork
5/6/22 11:35 a.m.

There is a pretty big over supply of potash out there in the mining world, which is one of the main things that comes out of Ukraine and Russia.  We've already turned up the volume in Saskatchewan, which is a fairly major player in the potash world.  There could be some shortages, but I'd bet this years product was already in storage when the Russia thing came along, and there is lots of time for next years production to be boosted.  Remember, fertilizer has a three week season every year.

The Avian flu could certainly bump the price of chickens.  A decade ago it was something going through the pig barns, and there was the cows with prion disease before that.  

It's always something, and yet we are all still fat, or have the potential to be so.  I think we are pretty well insulated against starvation in North America.  There will be some serious diet restrictions in Ukraine and Russia, though.

mtn MegaDork
5/6/22 11:37 a.m.

We have been stocking up a little bit on some staples since February. Here was my post from back then, from this thread

mtn said:

3 things making me very nervous about an impending invasion, or two, that I haven't really seen covered anywhere: 

  1. Russia is stopping export of ammonium nitrate. To my understanding of agriculture, which is not even elementary level so please correct me if I'm wrong, they're the worlds number one exporter of it, and it is the most important fertilizer for corn. They're doing this under the guise of wanting to give their domestic agriculture a big boost, but the timing is awfully convenient. Source for the stop of export
  2. China is stockpiling corn, rice, and wheat in their strategic reserves at enormous rates not seen before. Like, over 50% of the worlds store for all of them, and 69% of the corn. Source
  3. KHL has cancelled the rest of the regular season and will commence with playoffs immediately after the olympics. They say it is because of the olympics and the pandemic, but that sounds silly to me. All of that was known when the season started. I think that there are 2 plausible reasons for this. First, that teams are going broke and won't be able to make payroll, or Second (and more likely) that Putin is leaning on them to finish the season by early April. 

I expect our food costs to go up significantly. 


There are some domestic things at hand that are causing it (though probably not what you're hearing about on mainstream news...), but the big things causing it are global issues (Russia), Avian flu, and climate issues. 


aircooled MegaDork
5/6/22 11:46 a.m.

Regarding grain, I don't think the US is in any kind of really bad shape, we are a heavy exporter normally.  It's Europe and Africa (India?), who really heavily on Ukrainian and Russian grain who are in big trouble.

Of course, as the price rise around the world, the price here will rise.

The slightly scary part is that I am suspicious that those who know or who are in power may be keeping this a bit hushed, to avoid panic.  This of course is a very delayed reaction kind of thing.  The primary problem is that Ukraine clearly was not able to do much planting in April, which means not much grain in October, so it's a bit of a slow motion disaster.

Regarding Russia, which is the worlds leading wheat exporter, it's not quite as dire.  They primarily export to countries not "going against them", and have certainly made deals with Chine (largest producer, but use more than they produce) and India.  The one that might be sweating is Turkey, who imports a lot from Russia, and is currently pissing them off.


Below are the 15 countries that exported the highest dollar value worth of wheat during 2020.

  1. Russia: US$7.9 billion (17.6% of total wheat exports)
  2. United States: $6.32 billion (14.1%)
  3. Canada: $6.3 billion (14%)
  4. France: $4.5 billion (10.1%)
  5. Ukraine: $3.6 billion (8%)
  6. Australia: $2.7 billion (6%)
  7. Argentina: $2.12 billion (4.7%)
  8. Germany: $2.1 billion (4.7%)
  9. Kazakhstan: $1.1 billion (2.5%)
  10. Poland: $1 billion (2.3%)
  11. Romania: $948.8 million (2.1%)
  12. Lithuania: $910.7 million (2%)
  13. Bulgaria: $699.2 million (1.6%)
  14. Latvia: $649.2 million (1.4%)
  15. Hungary: $630.6 million (1.4%)



5/6/22 12:00 p.m.

Technically there is no such thing as "price gouging" in a free market and we live in a free market, so that is a comfort right?


The providers will adjust to suit since the $$$ supply needs to keep coming. 

mtn MegaDork
5/6/22 12:06 p.m.

In reply to aircooled :

It isn't the grain itself, it is the fertilizer to grow it that is the worry. Obviously you can grow without it but...

Indy - Guy
Indy - Guy PowerDork
5/6/22 12:30 p.m.
mtn said:

In reply to aircooled :

It isn't the grain itself, it is the fertilizer to grow it that is the worry. Obviously you can grow without it but...

Yes, that's the point.  Yield will be reduced with reduced fertilizer usage.  If the worlds farmers use 10% less fertilizer on crops this season, than the harvest this year will be 10% less than last year.

 The developed countries will just have to pay more, but the poorer countries, could be squeezed out.

Appleseed MegaDork
5/6/22 2:25 p.m.

Maybe its not a completely bad thing. Gargantuan loads of fertilizer dumped across the world have completely berkeleyed up aquatic ecosystems.

Streetwiseguy MegaDork
5/6/22 2:52 p.m.

Fertilizer is too expensive to "throw gargantuan loads".  If it's making it to a river, you're doing it wrong.

Karacticus GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
5/6/22 3:09 p.m.
Streetwiseguy said:

Fertilizer is too expensive to "throw gargantuan loads".  If it's making it to a river, you're doing it wrong.

Actually, it means you're in Iowa.

Des Moines Water Authority has to remove nitrogen from the water supply, though I believe they just dump what they remove back in downstream of the city.

[hopefully not quite a flounder]

NBraun GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/6/22 8:49 p.m.

In reply to Appleseed :

Have you met some farmers? They don't even know what soil sampling is. Just put another 200lbs of urea on.

grover GRM+ Memberand Dork
5/7/22 12:54 a.m.

In reply to Streetwiseguy :

It's not just the rivers, it's affecting oceans in Florida. Red Tide has long been a thing in the gulf, and it's affecting the Atlantic now as well. 

dculberson MegaDork
5/7/22 1:13 a.m.

Basically all Ohio waters have a toxic algae problem due to fertilizer over application. 

preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) GRM+ Memberand Dork
5/7/22 8:13 a.m.

Tatertots. Are you berkeleying kidding me...


Noticed in NH by me and in PA by my mother. A shortage of the best minced potatoes ever is disturbing.

Indy - Guy
Indy - Guy PowerDork
5/7/22 9:21 a.m.

Apparently there's a shortage of baby formula too. I doubt that's related to fertilizer availability.

volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
5/7/22 9:26 a.m.

If it fixes the obesity problem in this country, is it really a bad thing?  

We've got our cooler weather crops planted, and the tomatoes and peppers ready to go. 18 full grown chickens and 5 chicks being raised now. A 6 month supply of beans, rice, oats, flour, canned fish, and other staples in dry storage. Plus enough canned fruits and veggies to last a year. 

Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos)
Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/22 4:45 p.m.

In reply to Indy - Guy :

It may tie into soy production.

aircooled MegaDork
5/7/22 5:46 p.m.

The baby formula issue is primary related to some safety recalls, likely made worse by general supply chain issues.  Really bad timing for issues essentially.


dculberson MegaDork
5/8/22 1:25 a.m.
NickD said:

It doesn't help that a lot of farm land has been converted to solar farms (and some places don't allow it to revert to farmland even after the solar panels are removed because they are considered hazardous materials) 

Hmm, so define what you think of as "a lot," because there is approximately 914 million acres of farm land in the us. And in order to power 100% of the us electric demand with solar would take about 14 million acres of land. So since we're low single digits solar power at this point we're way blow what I would consider "a lot." One thing we do not have is a shortage of farm land. In my opinion. 

fasted58 MegaDork
5/8/22 2:17 a.m.

I'll stock up on Ramen JIC, by the case.

DrBoost MegaDork
5/8/22 6:07 a.m.

We've seen this before. Basically they (media, government, business) tell us the sky is falling, when it isn't. Them they drop the sky on us and say "see!"  
They do this with gas prices all the time. "This just in: a guard at the guard shack at Gate B at The Oil Refinery called in sick this morning. Expect gas prices to go up as a result.  More at 11."

Then prices for the gas already in the ground goes up. 

The media is intentionally fallible. 

volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
5/8/22 7:39 a.m.

In reply to DrBoost :

"Fallible" is too kind a word. 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/8/22 4:06 p.m.

Agreed with many about farming and how it works.  The model of farmers making food is not really a thing anymore.  It used to be that you had X number of corn farmers making Y tons of corn.  Way back in the day, you sold it locally and made money.  Now it's part of a global market as a commodity.  

1875:  Farmer grows corn, loads it on a truck, sells it to local mills, consumers, restaurants, etc.
1935:  Farmer grows corn, takes it to the co-op mill and sells it.  Mill processes it and loads it on trains and trucks to be distributed.
1975:  Farmer grows corn, government subsidizes the purchase of corn, sits in a warehouse until it rots after about 15% of it gets used, turned into feed, or hauled away for dumping
2005:  Government realizes that it can save money by just paying you to stop growing corn because then they don't have a product that needs to be disposed.

Somewhere in the mid 20th century, the amount of grains produced exceeded the US consumption of grains by a large margin.  I think the US now produces more grain that the entire world can consume.  We left the supply/demand category of food production nearly 100 years ago.

Food production used to be like art.  There are 50 art customers and 10 artists.  Each artist creates 5 pieces of art, and the 50 people each get a piece of art for a supply/demand-based pricing.  Now, it's like fingerpainting day in kindergarten.  Now, one teacher has 75 pieces of art from 60 kids and no where to use them, and they're not that pretty to anyone but the kid that painted it.  No one wants them, there is no demand for them, so the teacher pats each kid on the head and says thank you.  The finger paintings will never make it to the art auction, and chances are they'll get used to start a fire in the teacher's fireplace.

But the thought that farmers produce something that goes to the open market is pretty incomplete these days.  If they're saying that a lack of fertilizer will cause us to suddenly have a shortage of food, I call complete BS.  We could scale back our grain production in the US by probably 90% and never see a shortage on the shelves.

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