The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has joined more than 100 growers and agribusinesses of the Agriculture Energy Alliance (AEA) in asking the U.S. Department of the Interior to allow development of energy resources in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

Noting that growers’ fuel expenses and input costs increased nearly $5 billion from 2004 to 2005, NCGA and AEA called for expanded access to offshore oil and natural gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of Virginia and Alaska.

“Fertilizer is one of the products most sensitive to natural gas costs,” explains NCGA President Ken McCauley. “Prices for many types of fertilizer have more than doubled, and U.S. fertilizer manufacturers have had to cut back production and even close plants.”

“As the U.S. agriculture industry becomes increasingly dependent on foreign fertilizer production... a real threat to our food security has been created,” AEA said in comments to the Interior Department’s Mineral Management Service (MMS). “American farmers suffer every day the natural gas supply/demand situation remains unbalanced through lack of substantive policy changes.”

MMS is the federal agency that manages the nation’s natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the OCS. The agency also collects, accounts for and disburses more than $8 billion per year in revenues from federal offshore mineral leases. According to AEA, the oil and natural gas reserves in the OCS may be enough to maintain current natural gas production for 71 years and current oil production for more than a century.