The following is an op-ed submitted by State Senator Tyler Harper, Republican Nominee for Commissioner of Agriculture:
Across the country, American families are feeling the pain as prices on fuel, groceries, and virtually every product continue to climb to record highs. In Georgia, our consumers are facing particularly devastating prices. Last week, the average price of a gallon of gas in Atlanta was $4.30 a gallon. But it’s not just rising prices at the pump. Inflation is at a 40 year high, and here in Georgia, Atlanta has one of the highest rates in the country at 10.6 percent. This has caused prices on everything from meat and dairy products to blue jeans and t-shirts to soar–affecting small businesses, families, and consumers across every walk of life. All said, these skyrocketing prices are set to cost every American family more than $3,000 this year alone.
But there’s also another byproduct of these rising prices that is significantly impacting both our farmers and consumers in Georgia: the cost of fertilizer. Most people hardly ever think about the cost of fertilizer impacting their everyday lives–but everything we eat, consume, and wear requires an abundant supply of fertilizer to grow. Fertilizer serves as a critical input cost for our farmers and producers who grow the food and fiber that we depend on every day.
Since 2021, the price of fertilizer has steadily been on the rise. Economists from Texas A&M University estimate that fertilizer prices are up 80% compared to last year. This was partially due to the Biden administration’s policy decisions to halt domestic coal and natural gas production–which are key components in the production of fertilizer. The issue was compounded by supply chain backlogs–which in turn made it more difficult and expensive for producers to obtain and afford fertilizer.
The war in Ukraine has only exacerbated the problem. In addition to its significant oil production, Russia is also a leading producer of Ammonium Nitrate–one of the two main ingredients in the production of fertilizer. On February 1, the Kremlin halted the export of Ammonium Nitrate–saying at the time: “Additional demand has arisen on the domestic market for ammonium nitrate from both agricultural producers and industrial businesses.” In reality, the move was an attempt to withhold this critical resource from farmers in the West–and by extension disrupt our critically important food supply facing already uncertain times. And for a country in Russia that controls two-thirds of the world’s supply of Ammonium Nitrate–it has been devastating for our farmers and producers in Georgia and across the country.
The result has been difficult on two levels. First, our Georgia family farmers–who already see the lowest profit share in our state’s history in which they make pennies on the dollar on anything they produce–are being squeezed even further by these exorbitant input costs. Between fuel to power their tractors, sprayers, and trucks to fertilizer to help their crops grow, the rising costs are putting them in a no-win situation. Moreover, the rising input costs are also in many instances being passed on to the consumer at the grocery store, department store, and gas station. In short, the skyrocketing cost of fertilizer is creating a ripple effect across the agriculture industry that is in turn driving up prices for Georgia farmers, producers, and consumers.
At the end of the day, food safety and food security–and our food supply chain–is a national security issue. Agriculture is our state’s number one industry, but for it to continue to thrive and grow in this global economy, we must be flexible, nimble, and adaptable to the challenges we are faced with. That means increasing our domestic fertilizer supply–and Georgia should be leading the way in that effort. We also must commit to prioritizing our domestic energy production, shifting our supply chains back to the United States, and investing in our agriculture industry here in Georgia so that our farmers and producers have the resources necessary to continue competing on a global stage. Georgia can only continue to be the number one state for business if our number one industry is successful. By making the right strategic decisions and smart investments that benefit our state’s farmers, producers, and consumers, we’ll be well on our way to doing just that.