Poop-Boom: Manure Supplies Tighten As Fertilizer Prices Soar
Manure has become a hot commodity. U.S. farmers hunting for organic fertilizer come as chemical fertilizers are in short supply or at sky-high prices. According to Reuters, soaring demand for manure has unleashed a poop shortage.
"Manure is absolutely a hot commodity," said industry consultant Allen Kampschnieder, who works for Nebraska-based Nutrient Advisors.
Kampschnieder said cattle feeders selling waste are sold out for 2022. "We've got waiting lists," he said.
Farmers quickly switched to animal manure, a mixture of animal feces and straw, because the prices for industrial fertilizer jumped since the European natural gas crisis in the winter of 2021 and Western sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine in March.
This week, Canada-based Nutrien Ltd., the world's largest fertilizer company, warned that fertilizer disruptions "could last well beyond 2022." If so, this could drive even more farmers into spreading poop on fields.
Agriculture experts say manure is not a complete replacement for chemical fertilizer because it lacks some nutrients. Plus, there's not enough to overtake the chemical fertilizer market share in the U.S., hence why shortages are already materializing.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration said it was great news chemical fertilizer shortages were happening because it would force farmers to "go green" by using "natural solutions like manure."
However, Chris Jones, a research engineer and water quality expert at the University of Iowa, said manure is not all that green. If spread on fields, manure can cause serious water contamination issues to nearby streams, lakes, and groundwater.
Going green comes at a cost ... but that has yet to stop demand as farmers must use some form of crop nutrients to maintain robust yields at the end of harvest.
"We're definitely seeing farmers move toward manure with the increase in fertilizer prices," said Jim Monroe, spokesperson for Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer.
Kampschnieder said that farmers across the country are sniffing out new poop supplies without any luck. This has caused solid manure in Nebraska to jump to $11 to $14 per ton, up from $5 to $8 per ton.
The poop boom has also moved into heavy machinery and equipment needed to spread manure on fields. It's a stinky business, but a lot of money is being made.
"We have people looking for equipment right away, and we're sold out for six months," said Husky Farm Equipment Ltd.'s President Walter Grose. His company sells spreading equipment and can't keep up with demand.
Dan Andersen, an associate professor at Iowa State University who specializes in manure management, warned there's not enough manure in the U.S. to replace commercial fertilizer completely.
There's also a risk that manure could become even more valuable in the second half of this year, as U.S. livestock herds are expected to decline. This means poop production will shrink, shooting up prices even further.
Demand for poop is soaring under the Biden administration partly because they sanctioned Russia and Belarus (the world's top fertilizer exporters) for the invasion of Ukraine. The admin's ability to spin the transition of the chemical fertilizer to manure because it's the "green" thing to do is nothing short of disinformation. As for now, US farmers are desperate for poop, and supplies are tight.