When foreign governments threaten an American industry and American jobs through harmful trade practices, America can’t afford to stand by. It becomes necessary for the American government to intervene.

In November, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a preliminary finding that the governments in Russia and Morocco are subsidizing their phosphate producers. In other words, Morocco and Russia are stacking the deck, artificially driving down prices so others can’t compete.

The foreign governments of Russia and Morocco have heavily subsidized phosphate production. These subsidies have disrupted the market unfairly, harming U.S. phosphate manufacturers, the Americans who work for them, and the farmers who buy their fertilizer. Unfair trade has forced some phosphate producers that play by the rules out of the market.

This is not about companies competing for market share. It’s about establishing a level playing field for all market participants -- including U.S. companies. This is about the integrity of American agriculture. It is much bigger than Mosaic; The Mosaic Company took action to protect U.S. agricultural independence.

If unfair trade is allowed to continue, U.S. phosphate producers could be further squeezed out of the market, which would leave the supply of phosphate -- an essential food production nutrient -- increasingly in the hands of foreign governments. Costs to American farmers would rise dramatically. It’s a risk we should not be willing to take.

The U.S. phosphate industry supports nearly 50,000 jobs and contributes more than $12 billion in economic value in central Florida alone. The unfair trade practices of Russian and Moroccan producers are putting this vital economic engine in jeopardy.

U.S. producers have been forced to close plants in Florida and Mississippi, and several smaller producers have gone out of business entirely. Communities lose major employers, workers lose jobs, and the entire economy pays the price.

Without fair competition, the industry could continue to suffer and contract, resulting in tens of thousands of lost jobs. America can’t afford to stand by and allow foreign producers to engage in trade practices that harm jobs and our economy.

Fair trade will enable more producers around the world to reenter the market. Fair competition means more options and a healthy marketplace of trusted and reliable suppliers for American farmers -- including suppliers based here in the United States.

And applying fair trade doesn’t just help American farmers and phosphate producers -- it helps protect the environment, too.

There are documented cases of Morocco’s leading phosphate producer dumping hazardous materials directly into the ocean through offshore pipelines. Enforcing fair trade policies discourages this reckless behavior. By contrast, American producers must abide by strict environmental laws and regulations, spending millions of dollars every year to ensure they remain good environmental stewards.

Our view is simple: American farmers shouldn’t be dependent upon foreign governments. They deserve the confidence and certainty of American-produced crop nutrients for American-grown food. And we must do all we can to protect American industry, American jobs, and American farmers.

The implications of inaction are far-reaching and dangerous: this is about who controls the supply and cost of an essential nutrient for growing our food. Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them to enforce fair trade in the phosphate industry. America’s agricultural independence is at stake.

Ben Pratt is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs at the Mosaic Company, the largest U.S. producer of phosphate fertilizer.

For more news, go to www.agri-pulse.com.