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The Iowa attorney general is looking into soaring fertilizer prices

John Pemble
IPR file photo

Fertilizer prices have skyrocketed over the last year. As farmers gear up for planting season, the Iowa Attorney General is looking into the reasons behind the increases.

Farmers apply nitrogen- and phosphate-based fertilizers to their fields to help their crops grow. But fertilizer prices have climbed in the last year. The price of anhydrous ammonia is up 315 percent. Urea has increased by 214 percent and liquid nitrogen’s price has gone up 290 percent.

Fertilizer companies blame the price increases on natural gas cost spikes and production plant shutdowns related to Hurricane Ida. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said on Thursday he wrote to the CEOs of the top fertilizer manufacturers to find out more.

“We’re taking a look at why this increase. What happened? What’s the relationship to supply and demand?” Miller said. “And ask them for their side of the story.

Miller said he wants to know if factors like the rising cost of natural gas justify the jump in prices, but he emphasized it’s not an investigation.

“It’s sort of an initial look to see why this happened,” Miller said. “And afterwards we can make decisions.”

Miller said he’s drafted economists to study the issue. He also said he’s spoken with attorneys general in eight other states – primarily in the Midwest – about this, but he wouldn’t disclose which states.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.