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Tariffs slashed on Moroccan phosphate fertilizer imports
By Doug Schmitz
Iowa Correspondent

MADELIA, Minn. – The U.S. Department of Commerce has announced it significantly slashed tariffs placed on Moroccan phosphate fertilizer imports, dropping these countervailing duties from 19.97 percent to 2.12 percent.
According to the World Trade Organization, countervailing duties (tariffs) can only be imposed if the investigating agency of the importing country determines that the imports of the product in question are subsidized, and are injuring a domestic industry.
In 2020, the Commerce Department favored a petition filed by the U.S.-based The Mosaic Co., to impose duties on phosphate fertilizers imported from Morocco, and Russia. Mosaic contended that unfairly subsidized foreign companies were flooding the U.S. market with fertilizers, selling them at exceptionally low prices.
In February 2021, the department recommended the U.S. International Trade Commission place tariffs of more than 19 percent on imported fertilizers from Morocco after Mosaic, which manufactures fertilizers used in the U.S. and abroad, filed a petition with the department, seeking levies (which impose a tax, fee, or fine).
However, as a result, phosphate fertilizer prices rose by 93 percent, according to the USDA.
In October, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), along with 62 other agricultural groups, sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, calling on her to recalculate duties on phosphate fertilizer imported from Morocco.
Harold Wolle, NCGA president and a Madelia farmer, said the U.S. Commerce Department’s decision is “a big win for corn growers. This victory was made possible by corn growers across the country who spoke out against these duties as they faced skyrocketing fertilizer prices, and product shortages at the behest of The Mosaic Co.
“While the best duty on fertilizers is no duty at all,” he added, “we are nonetheless thrilled that corn growers bearing the brunt of these tariffs will feel financial relief, thanks to this decision.”
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said high tariffs and duties on fertilizer have made it more costly for farmers to grow their crops, further driving up input costs, and placing a burden on producers.
“I led my colleagues in urging the Department of Commerce to reconsider the high duties placed on fertilizers, and while I support more fertilizer production here in the U.S., reducing duties will make certain our farmers have access to the resources they need,” he said.
Bryan Goodman, NCGA senior director of policy communications, told Farm World, “The decision (by the U.S. Commerce) was retroactive for the periods Nov. 30, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021. The decision puts us on the road toward having more fertilizer options in the U.S. for farmers.”
In a separate matter, the U.S. Court of International Trade in September ordered the Commerce Department to reconsider the duty rate calculation because of what the court referred to as flaws found in department’s analysis.
According to the NCGA, a decision on that matter is expected Dec. 13.
“The next bite at the apple will be on Dec. 13 when Commerce will again review the duties, but this time, based on a remand decision (sending it back for further action) by the U.S. Court of International Trade,” Goodman said.
The Iowa Corn Growers Association recently developed language to be added to the Farm Bill that would review competition and transparency of the fertilizer industry, which, it said, would mandate a USDA assessment of the pricing practices used by fertilizer companies, as well as the effects of the price increase on both farmers and consumers.
With the support of U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the association is hoping this language will make it into the Farm Bill, providing the USDA with a framework of variables to start a comprehensive study and review of the fertilizer industry.
“Over recent years, input costs for farmers have gone up again and again, and were crucial topics at grassroots events led by the Iowa Corn Growers Association,” said Jolene Riessen, association president and an Ida Grove, Iowa, farmer.
“This assessment would provide transparency of the fertilizer market, and help us understand why these increases in price are recurring,” she added.