New US fertiliser industry report shows sustainability gains

SUBSCRIBE to our fortnightly email newsletter to receive more stories like this. John Deere 4730 sprayer and tanker working in tandem on Nesler Kreuger Grain Farms, Illinois: the latest report from US fertiliser industry body TFI shows some gains in safety, sustainability and environmental concern in recent years.

According to the latest State of the Fertilizer Industry report from The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), the US’s leading fertiliser-industry body, released on 14 February 2018, the US fertiliser industry made gains in safety, sustainability and environmental responsibility over the 12 months to end December 2016.

The report, which aggregated and analysed data provided by US-based fertiliser firms representing the entire fertiliser value chain, found improved water efficiency, lower GG emissions, less wasted heat and more research funds directed towards reducing harmful run-off.

The annual State of the Fertilizer Industry report is a key component of TFI’s sustainability and stewardship programs. It quantifies the performance of the US’s major fertiliser manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers on various environmental, economic and social indicators.

The report also documents the industry’s contribution to meeting several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals:  

  • zero hunger;
  • clean water and sanitation;
  • affordable and clean energy;
  • industry innovation and infrastructure; and
  • climate action.

On announcing the report’s release, TFI president Chris Jahn was keen to point to the gains the US industry has made with regard to safety, sustainability and environmental responsibility.

“The fertiliser industry is essential to helping growers feed a more prosperous world,” declared Jahn. “Our 2017 State of the Fertilizer Industry report demonstrates our parallel commitment to safe colleagues and neighbours, a strong economy, and environmental conservation and protection.”

Safety and sustainability gains

The latest State of the Fertilizer Industry report contains encouraging signs that the industry is making efforts to improve its safety and environmental record. The report found that:

  • in 2016, the US fertiliser industry was twice as safe as comparable industries, with the lost-time incident rate in the sector falling to 0.8 cases per 100 full-time equivalent employees; and
  • in the same year, the industry invested nearly US$1 million in 4R Nutrient Stewardship research aimed at “strengthening fertiliser best-management practices and seeking solutions that reduce nutrient loss to the environment”.
A farmer spreading fertiliser: the US fertiliser industry is growing greener and more sustainable, finds industry body TFI's latest report.
Spreading fertiliser: the US fertiliser industry is growing greener and more sustainable, finds industry body TFI's latest report.
Robert Burns, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Flickr CC

Environmental gains

Participating companies reported that in 2016, they had:

  • on average, captured and re-used 25 percent of the GHG emissions they produced, a saving comparable to removing nearly two million vehicles from the road for a year;
  • invested a total of US$4.3 billion [AU$5.55b] in “advancing innovation, improving infrastructure and promoting sustainable production of fertiliser”;
  • across the US, reclaimed 1.4 billion gallons [5.3 gigalitres] of water and recycled another 461.9 billion gallons [1,748 gigalitres] of treated wastewater;
  • decreased their water usage per [non-metric] ton of fertiliser compared with the previous year’s usage (according to TFI, water consumption has decreased every year since reporting began in 2013);
  • captured 111 million gigajoules (GJ) of ‘waste heat’, which was used to generate energy on site or return it to the grid, producing sufficient energy to power 216,635 typical American homes for a year; and
  • invested in new railcars, enabling US fertiliser suppliers to ship around 19.8 million tons of fertiliser safely and efficiently by rail. The study noted that transporting goods, including fertiliser, by rail rather than by truck or semi-trailer, typically slashes GG emissions by an impressive 75 percent – sometimes more.

Who contributed data to the report?

A total of 33 TFI member companies from across the US contributed data voluntarily to the 2017 report.

Collectively, the participating companies represented the entire fertiliser value chain, accounting for 94 percent of the United States’ nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium production capacity and 33 percent of its retail fertiliser supply sector.

The data in the latest TFI report represents fertiliser products “produced in, imported to, or transported” across the US in 2016.

It contains an appendix of data from TFI’s 2015 and 2016 State of the Industry reports for ease of comparison.

What is The Fertilizer Institute (TFI)?

TFI, based in Washington, DC, is the leading voice of the US’s fertiliser industry. Its membership includes fertiliser producers, wholesalers, retailers and trading firms.

The Institute provides the fertiliser industry, across the US and worldwide, with educational and technical information as well as information about relevant US legislative and economic information and public communication programs.

Further information

Read the 2017 State of the Fertilizer Industry report here. 

For more information on the US fertiliser industry, visit the official TFI website.

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