Producers urged to lock up their fertilizer supplies

Weather problems prevented many farmers from applying fall fertilizer last year, which may cause bottlenecks this spring

Focusing on price might not be the smartest thing in the fertilizer market today.

Just getting the fertilizer they need might be a farmer’s biggest challenge this spring.

“Storage is going to be key again,” said Ryan Dyck of Archer Daniels Midland during Farm Days held recently in St. Jean, Man.

“If you have storage, whether it’s UAN or urea, it’s a good option. Then you’re in control of your own destiny.”

In many parts of Western Canada and much of the United States Midwest and Great Plains states, farmers applied almost no fertilizer in the fall. That means tens of thousands of farmers might be wanting to buy and apply a year’s worth of fertilizer within a short window at seeding time.

That could cause bottlenecks, delays and unavailability, leaving some farmers idle when they want to be seeding and leaving others without the fertilizer they need until it’s too late.

Brunel Sabourin of Antara Agronomy said some dealers only have enough storage to carry half their needs. Others only have enough for two to three days of heavy sales.

Truckers will be busy and if there’s too much demand all of a sudden, farmers might end up in a queue for deliveries.

And if there are major floods and disruptions along the Mississippi River, along which much of North America’s fertilizer supplies flows, enough supplies might not make it up-river.

“The biggest guarantee is if a farmer can take it on the farm,” said Sabourin.

Dyck said it is impossible to say for certain if significant fertilizer distribution problems will arise this spring because it is an unusual situation.

“Retailers are going to be stretched because this has never happened before,” said Dyck.

If spring seeding across western North America is stretched out, some supply bottlenecks might be avoided as some farmers get their fertilizer down while others are waiting or further advanced.

But if seeding is delayed there could be a scramble. A good open spring across a wide geographic area could cause the same scramble because everybody will try to get underway at the same time.

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