State data for the 2008-2009 fiscal year indicates less fertilizer was sold for use on Virginia farms and in Virginia in general.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Product and Industry Standards reports that 692,033 tons of fertilizer products were reported sold between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009. That’s 110,290 tons or 16 percent less than products sold between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008.
Farm use tonnage for 2008-2009 was 407,402 tons, 22 percent less than in the previous fiscal year. Non-farm use tonnage was 284,631, or 6 percent less than in the previous fiscal year.
Cost was a major factor in the farm-use decrease, said Jonah Bowles, market analyst for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “The fertilizer index of prices in August 2008 was five times the price in November of 2006,” Bowles said. “Farmers stopped buying fertilizer if they could help it.” Some of them could help it, according to Tony Banks, a VFBF commodity marketing specialist. “Farmers are employing management practices and technology that continually increase fertilizer use efficiency, which results in some reduction of fertilizer purchases,” he said. Still, “the farm economy played a major role in reducing farm fertilizer purchases in 2008-2009. Last year fertilizer prices were still very high, and in some instances supply problems limited fertilizer purchases by farmers. Falling crop prices resulted in less farm income, and in many cases credit became tight. So farmers were looking for ways to cut costs to pay for other necessities, like fuel and seed.” Demand could pick up in the coming year, Bowles said, because some crops that went without fertilizer last growing season will need to “catch up” this year. Prices have dropped some, he added.
“The bottom line, as I see it, is that maybe fertilizer prices are not bad right now, and it may be to the advantage of the producer to lock in the supply and price.” The top 10 localities for fertilizer sales in 2008-2009 were King William County (42,493 tons), Caroline County (28,883 tons), Rockingham County (22,988 tons), Fairfax County (22,574 tons), Accomack County (22,164 tons), Essex County (21,095 tons), Southampton County (17,322 tons), Dinwiddie County (15,839 tons), the city of Suffolk (14,805 tons) and Sussex County (14,361 tons).
Rockingham and Southampton are among the 10 Virginia counties with the most farm acreage. Rockingham and Accomack are among the 10 Virginia counties with the most farm income.