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Greg Martin 09/09/05 Katrina`s impacts on NW ag, Finale
by Greg Martin, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: September 09, 2005

The Gulf States are noted as a major shipping port for agricultural commodities and supplies, what with both ocean access and the Mississippi River flowing right into the Gulf of Mexico. And that point has been very much stressed in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Barges and ocean going vessels are awaiting word to transport farm chemicals and fertilizers to parts of the country, and parts of the world. Allen Noie of Crop Life America says a greater concern for his organization has been the safety of farm chemicals in the realm of potential homeland security threats as a result of hurricane damage.

NOIE: We are maintaining contact with the respective agricultural departments in the states involved. Were touching base on a regular basis with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and with pesticide officials in those respective areas to offer our support if and when it might be needed.

With several production facilities sustaining minimal damage as a result of Katrina, and other areas of the country like Northwest plants increasing production to cover volumes, the long range impact to our region, according to Noie, is expected to be minimal. However, fertilizer supplies could be another story. According to Bruce Vernon of Minnesota based fertilizer dealer Agrilliance, from an infrastructure standpoint, things are good.

VERNON: The first thing we saw was the fertilizer production down in that area. Most of it went down pre-hurricane in a precautionary mode. And the plants for the most part sustained minimal damage and several of them are returning to operations this week.

But the concern is the natural gas supply. Natural gas is a key component in making fertilizer. Prices spiked in the aftermath of Katrina. And it may be days, even weeks, before the amount of damage of natural gas pipelines coming out of the Gulf and into supply tanks is determined.

VERNON: The price of natural gas being so high is really sending ripple effects across the entire industry, even product that is not manufactured in the New Orleans area. The price of natural gas has a tremendous influence upon the price of nitrogen and so were seeing that really across the United States, and so the hurricane has impacted the entire market.

And while individual companies have reserves, there is no federal natural gas reserve as there is for refined oil and gas. And the hurricane came at a time when the industry traditionally stocks up on underground supplies for the winter heating season.

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