A fertilizer supply shock is imminent for US farmers as CF Industries Holdings, Inc. warned Thursday that rail shipments of crop nutrients would be reduced to top agricultural states, which couldn’t come at a worse time as the Northern Hemisphere spring planting season is underway.
The world’s largest fertilizer company said Union Pacific had hit it with railroad-mandated shipping reductions that would impact nitrogen fertilizers such as urea and urea ammonium nitrate shipments to Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, and California. Union Pacific told CF Industries without advance notice to reduce the volume of private cars on its railroad immediately. This means CF Industries had to decrease shipments by a whopping 20% to stay compliant.
“The timing of this action by Union Pacific could not come at a worse time for farmers,” said Tony Will, president and chief executive officer of CF Industries.
“Not only will fertilizer be delayed by these shipping restrictions, but additional fertilizer needed to complete spring applications may be unable to reach farmers at all. By placing this arbitrary restriction on just a handful of shippers, Union Pacific is jeopardizing farmers’ harvests and increasing the cost of food for consumers,” Will said.
The move is particularly problematic for the Midwest, where 90% of corn and 80% of soybeans are produced in the US. The region is a critical node in the global food system, and tightening the fertilizer supply will only drive up food prices by shrinking harvests.
Farmers have been pressured by record-high fertilizer and diesel costs.