The State of the Fertilizer Industry
Based upon the evidence, the industry contributes resources to the whole nation.
By Jennifer Martin
As consumers, we live in a world with access to more data than we could ever hope to mine through. And as consumers, this data is helpful as we try to make informed decisions about our purchases, eating habits, and everyday behaviors. For an industry, it creates a climate of transparency and a demand from consumers for businesses to be open about their business practices. All industries are facing this new climate — even the fertilizer industry.
This past year, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) undertook the first ever State of the Industry Report, an effort to document industry performance on environmental, economic, and social indicators. “The future of the fertilizer industry depends on our ability to provide goods and services that help growers feed the world, improve lives, and protect the environment,” said Chris Jahn, TFI President. “In short, sustainable growth requires the industry to balance economic performance with environmental and social responsibilities. Measuring and evaluating our efforts provides a way to track performance and identify areas we can target for improvement.” The report highlights several contributions the fertilizer industry is making. Here are some highlights.
The U.S. is the fourth-largest producer of nitrogen-based fertilizers in the world and the second largest producer and exporter of phosphate fertilizer. The fertilizer industry contributed more than $139 billion and 452,702 jobs to the U.S. economy in 2014. This includes the direct contribution, supplier contribution, and downstream positive impact of the entire industry value chain — from manufacturers to wholesalers, retailers, and goods and services suppliers. Many of these jobs rank among the best in their communities.
The entire fertilizer industry directly employs nearly 80,000 people who produce more than $58 billion in output. The nation’s fertilizer retailers alone support in excess of 42,000 jobs with a total annual payroll of more than $20 billion. Fertilizer manufacturers and wholesalers combined contribute another 38,000 jobs with a combined annual economic impact of $38.5 billion. Also, the industry pays $13.2 billion in federal, state, and local government taxes.
Fertilizer companies invest significantly in plants and equipment based in the U.S., where much of the raw nutrient extraction and production process take place. Capital investments that TFI member companies make directly contribute to the economic stability of local communities and the U.S. as a whole. From 2012-14, the 10 reporting TFI member companies made aggregate total capital investments of $1.9 billion per year on average.
Natural Resource Conservation
Water and energy are essential to our operations, and the industry endeavors to identify and implement processes for their conservation and re-use. In fact, the companies whose data are aggregated in our report recycle and re-use surface and groundwater an average of four times during the fertilizer production process. The industry reported a 13% decrease in total water usage per ton of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous produced in 2014.
The fertilizer industry is also engaged in providing agronomic expertise to farmers. This technical support helps farmers protect the environment and benefit society while remaining profitable, and is based on the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework (use of the right fertilizer source at the right rate, the right time, and in the right place).