In an era defined by environmental challenges, population growth, and an ever-increasing demand for food production, the role of agriculture is more critical than ever. With our vast expanses of farmland and innovative farming practices, the United States stands as a beacon of agricultural prowess. In order to maintain this position, it is imperative that we take proactive steps to secure our agricultural future. One such step is the inclusion of phosphate and potash on the Critical Minerals list – a compilation of resources deemed vital to our nation’s economy and security – to safeguard and enhance the foundation of American agriculture and strengthen our nation’s food security. 

Phosphate and potash are essential macronutrients that play pivotal roles in crop growth, yield, and overall plant health. Phosphate, in the form of phosphorus, is crucial for root development, photosynthesis, and promoting the efficient uptake of nutrients. Potash, primarily in the form of potassium, is responsible for strengthening plant structure, improving water utilization, and enhancing resistance to diseases and stress. Without these two minerals, modern agricultural systems would crumble and the ability to feed a growing population would be severely compromised.

Make no mistake about it, food security is national security. While discussions regarding national security tend to center on military strength, geopolitical influence, and protection of critical infrastructures, recent events have laid bare that food security is equally important in safeguarding a nation’s future. The vast majority of the world’s phosphate and potash resources are concentrated in a few countries, raising the risk of supply chain vulnerabilities and geopolitical instability. 

The global phosphate market is complex, with the U.S. relying on imports for roughly 30% of domestic needs, but other challenges exist and phosphate is also susceptible to significant market disruptions. China accounts for 42%% of global phosphate production but banned exports in 2021 to ensure their own domestic access. Russia is another large phosphate producer and placed export quotas on phosphates in November of 2021. While those quotes have been lifted, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has created significant uncertainty regarding availability and access to these resources.

In the United States, other supply chain vulnerabilities exist regarding regulatory challenges. Access to domestic reserves of phosphate ore is subject to a host of federal and state approvals which can take years to obtain and cost tens of millions of dollars. Being included on the Critical Minerals list does not exclude these projects from necessary environmental reviews, but it does assign a single agency to be responsible for the process and can significantly improve current permitting inefficiencies and delays. 

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Geopolitical risk is even more evident with potash. Only 14 countries in the world produce potash, with Belarus and Russia comprising nearly 40% of global production. In 2021, the United States imported over 95% of domestic potash needs. While the bulk of U.S. potash needs are met by close and friendly trading partner Canada, those supply chains are not immune to disruptions and have recently been disturbed by rail strikes, port strikes, and cross-border policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, despite Canada providing over 32% of the global potash production in 2021, they still recognize potash’s importance to their country and have designated it as a critical mineral. Similarly, the European Commission added phosphate to the list of 20 Critical Raw Materials. It’s time for Congress to act and pass legislation, such as H.R. 4059 led by Congressional Western Caucus members Representative Kat Cammack (R-FL) and Representative Barry Moore (R-AL), to follow suit and add phosphate and potash to the Critical Minerals list.

In a world marked by uncertainty and evolving challenges, it is time for the U.S. to broaden its perspective on national security. Food security is inextricably linked to the well-being of the nation and should be treated with the same level of urgency as traditional security concerns. By adding phosphate and potash to the Critical Minerals list, we can take a significant stride towards securing our own future and sending the clear message that safeguarding our nation’s food supply is not only an economic imperative, but a strategic priority that ensures the well-being of our citizens.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., is chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus and Corey Rosenbusch is President and CEO of the Fertilizer Institute. 

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