A big pile of manure

What is it about farming that makes otherwise rational people lose their frigging minds? In the latest news out of the land that reason forgot (and published in the WSJ today) fertilizer prices are going through the roof, up 65% from a year earlier. This is supposedly exacerbating the food crisis, because farmers can’t afford to expand their production.

According to Robert Carlson, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, the price of fertilizer “defies rational explanation.” And by “rational explanation”, he means something like, “what fertilizer would cost if the price weren’t kept artificially high by potash and phosphate cartels.”

Let’s pause for a moment to sup on the rich irony of a farmer complaining about price fixing.



Turns out he has a point, since there are cartels, including our own Canpotex, which are shielded from anti-trust laws by legislative exemptions in Canada and the US.

Which brings us to one Bill Doyle, chief exec of Potash corp: “In an interview Monday, Mr. Doyle called recent complaints about prices an emotional reaction. Fertilizer prices began rising in earnest about a year ago after a nearly decade long period of stability. ‘People don’t like higher prices,’ Mr. Doyle said. But ‘you never hear from anyone complaining when prices are low’.”

Actually, yes you do. YOU HEAR IT FROM FARMERS. Farmers complain incessantly when prices are low. Of course, one thing farmers don’t complain about when prices are low are the equally low prices of inputs like, say, FERTILIZER. So what are we left with? Not much. One group of oversprotected rent-seekers complaining about another group over overprotected rent-seekers.

I’m going to have some bumper stickers made up:


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