OMAHA (DTN) -- More than 60 farm groups on Thursday wrote U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, calling on her to reconsider her department's punitive duties on phosphate imports from Morocco.
The letter comes just over a month after a judge from the U.S. Court of International Trade ruled against the reason why 19.97% import tariffs were placed on Moroccan phosphate in 2021 by the International Trade Commission -- which falls under the Commerce Department.
The farm groups noted, "High costs and limited availability of fertilizer continue to strain family farms" nationally, and the groups want Commerce Department officials to factor in those concerns of farmers.
The farm groups stated that the last three years have saddled producers with higher input costs. The letter points to supply chain disruptions involving trade routes and a lack of raw materials. "With increasingly limited options for fertilizer sources, farmers have struggled to diversify their supply chains, exposing them to risk."
An example is that "triple super phosphate" is not available in the U.S., but still faces a duty. The farm groups stated more diversity is needed with fertilizer supplies to reduce disruptions and mitigate adverse global events.
The farm groups stated phosphate prices increased 230% from 2020 to 2022. Farmers spent $36.9 billion on fertilizer and lime in 2022 compared to $24.4 billion in 2020. USDA estimated farmers will pay $36.4 billion on fertilizer costs in 2023, a slight decline. While fertilizer prices are expected to drop, that also comes with lower farm income as commodity prices also are dropping.
"The pattern of high fertilizer costs is not abating and is unsustainable for farm country," the farm groups stated.
Looking at phosphate fertilizers, DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends shows DAP prices are down $214 a ton from the same week a year ago to an average of $711 a ton. MAP prices have dropped $192 a ton to an average of $794 a ton as well.
It took nearly 2 1/2 years for the Moroccan fertilizer company OCP North America and others to get a ruling on the tariffs placed on Moroccan phosphate products in early 2021. The International Trade Commission (ITC) imposed the 19.97% tariff on Moroccan phosphate based on imports from 2017 to 2020.
A judge for the U.S. Court of International Trade ruled the ITC didn't adequately consider that some domestic fertilizer companies had lowered their phosphate production. Mosaic, for instance, idled a Florida plant in 2017 that was responsible for producing 2 million metric tons of product. The judge also said the ITC didn't factor in the problems companies had trying to move fertilizer upstream after 2018 due to flooding on the Mississippi River at that time.
The farm groups pointed to some of the judge's ruling, which also included finding errors in the Commerce Department's profit rate, which led to skewing the duty calculations.
The farm groups called for the Commerce Department to conduct a "comprehensive and thorough consideration process" when reviewing the judge's ruling and remanding its duties on the Moroccan fertilizer. The farm groups also called on Commerce officials to better factor in the risks to producers when a source of fertilizer is cut off.
"American agriculture must have market access to compete globally, and a major impediment like a fertilizer duty only undermines the ability to establish and expand markets," the letter noted.
The judge's ruling, which remanded the duties back to the International Trade Commission, also stated the ITC has 120 days to review the decision and hand down another ruling. With responses from plaintiffs and intervenors, it could take seven months for a final decision, effectively rolling into next spring's planting season.
The letter was signed by the National Corn Growers Association, American Retailers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers and dozens of other state and national commodity groups.
To see DTN's latest Weekly Retail Fertilizer Price column, go here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com.
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