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Farm specialist says he hasn’t seen this much 'uncertainty and anxiety' before a season in more than a decade.

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Loren King
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Many of the fertilizers used by Michigan farmers are manufactured internationally.

And as U.S. sanctions on Russia take effect, many farmers are seeing a rise in fertilizer costs.

As spring planting approaches, some farmers are struggling to weigh how much of their land needs to be fertilized with potash.

96% of potash in the U.S. comes from Canada, Belarus and Russia.

Potash is a key mineral for crops like soybeans. Once ground, it can stand alone as a fertilizer or be mixed into other fertilizers. One of the most important things potash does for crops is fend off disease.

But fertilizers like potash are nearing $1,000 a ton. That’s almost double the cost of last year’s prices.

Typically, fertilizer costs are the second greatest expense next to seed for the average soybean farmer. That’s no longer the case.

"But now with these prices," said Mike Staton, a soybean specialist with Michigan State University Extension, "it's now probably 25 bucks more than your seed cost on a per acre basis in a typical soybean budget, so it's really increased."

Some farmers are weighing how much fertilizer to put down as a means to cut costs. But that comes with potential consequences.

"Your risk is potentially lowering your yield," said Paul Gross a field crop educator with the Michigan State University extension office in Isabella County. "We try to fertilize for optimum yields. Sometimes we may be put that little extra and just as a kind of protection of leaking in the system."

Staton says farmers who are struggling to make this decision need to gain a better understanding of their soil health and that the first thing to do is test.

"If you have recent soil tests that are no more than three years old go through those pretty carefully and look at your potassium soil test levels in there," said Staton.

Major supply chain disruptions are also wreaking havoc on deliveries to farmers. In the rail industry, some delays are often times 20 days behind.

"I feel like there's as much uncertainty and anxiety in the farm community as I've seen in probably a decade or two going into the season," Gross said.

Turns out, Osceola County is home to one of the highest-quality potash salt deposits in the world.

The Michigan Potash and Salt Company, based in Evart, is breaking ground on a new facility in the coming weeks.

The company hopes to annually produce 650,000 tons of potash when the facility opens up for operation in a few years and believes they can help Michigan farmers become less dependent on international markets for this essential fertilizer.

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