Grain Farmers of Ontario look to government for relief during fertilizer shortage

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Ontario farmers continue to tread water as they look to the government to provide some sort of relief or assistance in regards to the fertilizer shortage that has ensued due to the sanctions put on Russian imports following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Brendan Byrne, chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), says time is not on their side and they will talk to anyone who listens to try and facilitate some immediate solutions that will provide some relief for farmers. GFO is in the midst of explaining to government officials that it’s not only the concern of having enough fertilizer to get the crop going, but in the case of corn, producers are also sweating over if there will be enough fertilizer available for top-dressing crops later this season.

Incoming vessels are being closely monitored behind the scenes, with Byrne saying three shipments have come in with another five, or maybe more, on the docket.

With fertilizer prices already pushing a 117 per cent increase this April compared to last, the additional 42 per cent increase that has happened since Russia’s invasion on Ukraine is just a blow that is extremely difficult for farmers to take.

“We want the government and industry to come together. Because as we know, farmers can’t pass this on to anybody else. So if it’s not sorted out between the government and the retail side, it’s going to be downloaded on the farm. And we quite simply can’t have that happen.”

The 42 per cent increase is a result of Canada’s sanctions on Russia and as Byrne outlines, it’s not as easy as some would think to source out the needed fertilizer from other sources. Those suppliers have anticipated that move and as a result, have also raised their prices to be on par with the product coming out of Russia, so it’s as though all fertilizer has tariffs applied to it.

Byrne and the GFO are exploring different avenues to see if tariff relief is something the federal government would consider to provide some relief to farmers. Keeping in mind this is not the only turbulence producers are trying to navigate through this spring.

“At this point, like we’ve got fuel costs, escalating inputs, fertilizers, seed, carbon tax, it’s all coming to a head at a time when the farmer should be concentrating just on – what can I do best on my operation to get the most potential yield this particular growing season?”

An important part of this issue is making sure the pain points being felt by farmers are making their way to government officials, for instance, Byrne shares that until recently, officials were unaware that producers who had locked in fertilizer prices – at a lower rate than they are currently – in some cases, are now being handed an invoice to make up the difference in price.

“We’re asking on the retail side to provide some sort of transparency and what they’re charging. At the same time if somebody is having a issue on the retail side that they feel is is unethical, that they reach out to the office, provide that supporting documents so that when we talk to government, we can certainly point that out,” Byrne says.

He outlines the best thing that farmers can do right now is share their experiences, have their voice heard and they can do this by reaching out to their local MP. Additionally, GFO has set up a streamlined way to do this through portal on twitter which will self populate a template farmers can use to voice their concerns.