TIPPECANOE COUNTY (WLFI) — The USDA is supporting fertilizer production right here in the United States.
The USDA's $250 million grant will go to independent, innovative and sustainable American fertilizer manufactures in the U.S.
"The purpose of this grant was to try to inject some funds into making American-made fertilizer and helping companies that produce fertilizer here in the United States," said the Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Bruce Kettler. "We import a lot of our fertilizers, however we do produce some in the United States but it's not enough for all of our needs"
Kettler says the USDA's grant for American-made fertilizer will not only help with supply chain issues, but also the prices farmers are currently seeing.
"I think it has a lot to do with being more independent," said Kettler. "So again that's part of what the USDA is hoping to accomplish with this is the USDA wants to spur our efforts to bring some of that here to the United States."
Professor of Weed Science at Purdue University, Bill Johnson, says farmers have seen the supply chain disruptions for a period of time.
“So we import a lot of our fertilizers just like we do with some of our other agricultural imputes like herbicides,” said Johnson. “A lot of these fertilizer imputes come from countries like China, Russia and Belarus where we currently have some questionable relationships with.”
Johnson says the grant will be beneficial for the United States fertilizer production. However, he says remaining patient is important.
“The big thing is we have to be patient,” said Johnson. “I don’t think this grant is going to make an impact on fertilizer prices for the ’23 growing season, but hopefully when we get into ’24 and beyond we can get some things worked out to help our farmers out.”
Johnson and Kettler both agree that the USDA's grant will provide new opportunities for the Untied States.
“I think ultimately the long term goal is if we can reduce our dependence on imports, we can have more control over price and supply in the U.S. and get the product where we need it in a more economical manner,” said Johnson. “It’ a great way for us to reduce some of our dependence on foreign fertilizers.”
Kettler says the timing of this grant coincides with the development of a new fertilizer manufacturing facility being built in Wabash County, Indiana.
"An interesting joint venture was formed between a company called 'Hello Nature' which is based in Italy but they have a presence here in Indiana," said Kettler. "They have been doing a lot of work over the years on specialty fertilizers and biologic materials."
Hello Natured has partnered with MPS Egg Farms to form a new fertilizer manufacturing facility called Bionutrients.
"MPS Egg Farms is a large egg producer here in Indiana and the joint venture between the two is intended to take the mature from the chicken farms and Hello Nature has some proprietary ways to make fertilizer," said Kettler. "They're going to be able to take the manure to produce organic fertilizers and try to do it in a larger quantity that hopefully will be able to go into our larger crops."
Kettler says it's a great opportunity for Indiana to have a fertilizer manufacturing facility, especially a fertilizer facility that incorporates Indiana's large poultry production.
"So the timing was interesting because that joint venture was announced within the last several weeks that they're going to do that here in Indiana," said Kettler. "So I hope this grant from the USDA is the kind of grant that helps companies like that take their innovation, and take what they're looking to produce, and really give it a shot in the arm to be able to do it faster or on a bigger scale than maybe they were originally thinking."
Kettler says the USDA's grant also focuses on innovation for businesses.
"As part of their stated goal with this was to look at innovation," said Kettler. "Are there way to innovate in the fertilizer manufacturing space? Typically, some of the smaller and medium size manufactures can innovate on certain things"
According the Hello Nature, the new fertilizer manufacturing facility is expected to be fully operational by the summer of 2023.
"I think it present a really unique opportunity for them to have the raw material that they need to put into the process and produce something that's very unique," said Kettler. "To be able to do it in Indiana we're just really proud that those two companies are here in Indiana and I look forward to the innovation they're going to be able to bring for this."