At first glance, things are looking up for the agricultural world. Primarily, many parts of the U.S. have begun to emerge from the long shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning students are going back to school in person and people are once again eating out at their favorite restaurants. In addition, countries around the world have once again started buying huge quantities of U.S. grains, to feed both their livestock herds and human populations.
Both of these events mean demand for U.S.-grown crops to supply these sectors has started moving commodity prices to levels unseen in more than a decade. In fact, at last check, the two major row crops in the country were at 10-year highs, with soybeans at more than $14 per bushel and corn nearing $8 per bushel.
However, with all this good news in crop demand as a yin, there is also, unfortunately, a yang. In this case, that would be the supply of many of the most popular crop protection products annually used by grower-customers to manage weeds, pests, and diseases in their crop fields. Indeed, many agricultural market watchers report that such widely-used herbicides as glyphosate and glufosinate have become hard-to-get items in the early going of the 2021 growing season. This seems due in part to a reduction in overseas production of these products during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic during mid-2020.
Some ag retailers are already warning their grower-customers about potential shortages as a result. “This year is going to be a challenge for chemical products supply,” wrote Harlan Asmus, President of Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, in a recent enewsletter to customers. “Shortages are occurring in many brands. Please be open to changes in your chemical program as we experience unforeseen supply disruptions.”
It will be interesting to gauge what impact these potential product shortages might have on the 2021 growing season going forward. As always, stay tuned . . .