Fertilizer logistics strained as US farmers plant at record pace

Thu Jun 13, 2013 7:00am EDT
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* Farmers overwhelm fertilizer dealers as weather improves

* Some farmers delay planting while awaiting nutrients

* Postponed planting fuels doubts about crop yields

* Companies plan to build, expand operations in U.S.

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, June 13 (Reuters) - The frenzied push to plant this year's U.S. corn crop in the face of repeated delays has exposed a strained link in the agricultural network: fertilizer.

After one of the slowest starts to sowing on record due to heavy rains, farmers sprinted into action, planting about 42 million acres of corn in one week last month - a record and almost twice as much as the typical season's peak planting week.

However, the logistics for bringing key crop nutrients like urea and liquid nitrogen to the Midwest from the Gulf of Mexico or Canada - and then distributing them to growers - failed to keep pace as dealers were overwhelmed by the surge in demand.

The problem was not the global supply of fertilizer, which is ample; it was getting it to the right place at the right time.   Continued...