By Nathalie Voit

A shortage of common chemicals across the U.S. threatens to upend domestic crop harvests and prompt a potential food crisis, Reuters reported on June 27.

Reuters said widely used weed killers and fertilizers like Roundup glyphosate-based herbicide and Glufosinate- ammonium have seen prices skyrocket and inventory dwindle due to ongoing disruptions in the agricultural supply chain. The national shortage of agrichemicals also has a global component as U.S. farmers continue to grapple with the effects of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

While Russia typically accounts for about one-fifth of the world’s global nitrogen exports, access to these valuable chemical resources is barred to Western countries due to sanctions. Neighboring Belarus’s agricultural exports are also off-limits due to the Russia-Ukraine war. Both countries make up about 40% of global exported potassium, a vital component in commercial fertilizer products, according to experts at Rabobank.

Owner of distributor Spinner Ag Incorporated in Zionsville, IN, Shawn Inman, said domestic stockpiles of essential chemical fertilizers are at a 24-year low.

“This is off the charts,” Inman told Reuters. “Everything was delayed, delayed, delayed.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investigating agribusinesses to determine whether anticompetitive behavior or price gouging is involved.

The department in March opened a public inquiry into the effects of concentration in the seeds and agricultural inputs, fertilizer, and retail markets after hearing from concerned farmers and food retailers. USDA also pledged $250 million in grant money to spur domestic fertilizer production to support small farmers.

“Recent supply chain disruptions from the global pandemic to Putin’s unprovoked war against Ukraine have shown just how important it is to invest in this crucial link in the agricultural supply chain here at home,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “The planned investment is one example of many Biden-Harris Administration initiatives to bring production and jobs back to the United States, promote competition, and support American goods and services.”

USDA noted that fertilizer prices have more than doubled since last year due to the war in Ukraine, scarce supply of key minerals and energy inflation, and strong global demand. The department also blamed agricultural commodity costs, over-reliance on fertilizer imports, and weak competition within the sector for the national fertilizer shortage.