Fertilizers face political hurdles past November

15 July 2008 18:32  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS news)--Lobbyists for the US fertilizer industry face tough challenges no matter who wins the November general elections, the head of one such lobby group said on Tuesday.

Senator Barack Obama, a Democrat, would be friendlier to the fertilizer industry on agriculture issues such as ethanol subsidies, while Senator John McCain, a Republican, has stronger ties to the energy sector for matters affecting the natural gas supply, according to Ford West, president of the Fertilizer Institute.

West said Obama’s support for ethanol producers during his January win in the Iowa caucuses was promising, but added that Obama’s political party has its “backs against the wall” over energy policy now that President Bush, a Republican, on Monday lifted the executive order banning offshore drilling.

The Congressional ban still remains in place, putting pressure on Bush's opponents in the legislature.

Speaking at the Southwestern Fertilizer Conference, West said his organisation had no preference between the two candidates on the issues related to environment and transportation, and that tighter government regulation over chemical site security would remain a challenge regardless of the outcome of November's elections.

West said the likeliest outcome was that the Democrats would expand their majority in both houses of the Congress, with Republicans “just trying to hang on to 41 seats” in the upper chamberto be able to use parliamentary procedures to counter Democrat-sponsored legislation.

Rapid expansion of corn planting to feed the US ethanol industy has been a boon to fertilizer producers, but West said that an ongoing debate over the role of biofuels in driving food prices higher has begun to call into question the future of government subsidies for renewable fuels.

“Right now, ethanol has strong support, but there is kind of a war of words going on,” West said.

West also said natural gas prices are going to be under pressure soon if more nuclear power plants aren’t built to help supply the US with electricity. Ammonia is made from natural gas.

The Southwestern Fertilizer Conference, held annually in San Antonio, runs through Tuesday.

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By: David Rosen

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