The Biden administration is still planning to hit exports of potash fertilizer from Belarus with sanctions, but it won’t do so until the end of April. That will give farmers time to stock up on the input, according to the National Corn Growers Association.

“This is a win for the American farmer,” said NCGA President Chris Edgington. “Farmers are having a very hard time securing fertilizers, so a positive development like this couldn’t come at a better time.”

NCGA had asked the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls to hold off on the sanctions until the end of May, according to an industry official, who stressed that the decision by OFAC was nonetheless a victory.

The Biden administration first announced planned sanctions on Belarus — including two major state-owned potash companies that export about 13 million tons of the fertilizer per year — back in August; those sanctions were scheduled to go into effect in December. Treasury announced this week that it was expanding the potash sanctions, but NCGA officials say they were assured the penalties will not be implemented until the end of April.

The sanctions announced in August were meant to punish the Alyaksandr Lukashenka regime for a fraudulent election and the new sanctions announced this week are in response to the Belarusian leader’s “blatant disregard for international norms and the wellbeing of its own citizens” as well as “migrant smuggling into the European Union.”

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A confluence of events is driving higher the costs of fertilizer and other inputs. China has barred the export of phosphate fertilizer, Hurricane Ida impacted glyphosate and nitrogen production and a decision this week by the Commerce Department recommended duties on urea ammonium nitrate imports from Russia and Trinidad and Tobago.

Also, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled this year to allow tariffs to be placed on phosphate fertilizer imports from Morocco and Russia. The Moroccan fertilizer producer OCP is appealing that ruling.

“The American farmer should not have to suffer for the trade practices of foreign governments or for disagreement between multi-national corporations,” Edgington said. “Yet, that is exactly what happens when sanctions or tariffs are put in place. Farmers pay the price while others profit.” 

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