The Fertilizer Institute participated in a briefing held by the House Agriculture Committee Legislative Assistants this week to present its concerns and ideas regarding climate change policy as it affects the fertilizer industry and its farmer customers. The panel discussion was organized as a follow-up to the information gathering questionnaire, which was conducted by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), according to a press release from TFI.

Speaking on behalf of TFI members, TFI Vice President of Scientific Programs William C. Herz emphasized that without fertilizer, the world would be without between 40 percent and 60 percent of today's food supply, and that Congress should carefully assess the design of a carbon reduction program and take into consideration this crucial food security resource.

"Fertilizer is an energy intensive industry and segments of the fertilizer industry are both greenhouse gas (GHG) or energy intensive and trade intensive," Herz said. "As a result, our farmer customers-the nation's agricultural producers-must be an integrated part of the offset market."

During his presentation, Herz commented on the impact certain legislative policies would have on the fertilizer industry. Specifically citing domestic nitrogen fertilizer production, he noted that the fertilizer industry has achieved great energy efficiency reductions over the past 20 years, and remains committed to energy efficiency improvements and to reducing its environmental footprint but is currently approaching a theoretical maximum in energy conservation that is limited not by ingenuity or technology but by the laws of chemistry.

"Low cost opportunities to produce nitrogen fertilizer exist in nations with inexpensive natural gas, reduced labor and environmental costs, and most importantly relaxed or no climate change policies in place or on the horizon," Herz said. "As such, moving more fertilizer production overseas to less efficient producers would actually have a negative effect on global GHG emissions and climate change. This represents the worst possible scenario: a net increase in GHG emissions and the loss of thousands of high-paying domestic jobs."

In his conclusion, Herz highlighted the important role farmers can play in the reduction of climate change related emissions.

"Not only can low-till and no-till farming techniques help increase the carbon content of soils and reduce erosion, there are also practice-based approaches such as the Alberta Protocol, which is based on fertilizer best management practices, that demonstrate farmers' capacity to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from the field," Herz said.

"TFI believes that any future climate change policies should reward farmers for the use of these science-based practices utilizing the 4R nutrient stewardship system. This site-specific, science-based system has received the support of the American Society of Agronomy's Certified Crop Advisor program and, in addition to protecting the environment, ensures that farmers achieve profitability, while providing a sustainable food supply."