NPK. These letters are quite familiar to anyone with a little experience gardening: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the three main fertilizer nutrients we focus on almost exclusively today. Phosphorus and potassium are basically rocks and have some of their own issues due to over-mining and a few other problems. But today the concentration will be on everyone’s favorite fertilizer: nitrogen.
Nitrogen is found in the breakdown of organic matter and as a metabolic byproduct (interesting fact: your own pee is actually a very potent fertilizer, and is sterile). Since we toss out such a huge portion of our organic waste to break down in toxic garbage dumps, we are not living sustainably in regards to this very important resource and have chosen to go the quick fix route and rely on decayed dinosaurs to provide us with a source. Thanks to the advent of fracking (hydrofracturing), natural gas is now the prime source for ammonia, which is used to supply the nitrogen portion of most fertilizers. And those who've experienced the aftereffects of fracking firsthand are in an uproar about the contamination of water supplies and the release of so much methane into the atmosphere that the burnoff plumes can be seen from space. Yet we still buy fertilizer supplied from this same supplier to green up our lawns and gardens. And it's worth noting that our country's top processed food ingredient, corn, is one of the most fertilizer intensive crops in the world.Koch Fertilizer’s expanded product portfolio now includes ammonia, urea, UAN, phosphate, potash and sulfur-based products - in addition to a variety of more modern and high-powered mixed fertilizers.
An Associated Press article explained how incredibly profitable this industry is: ”Natural gas prices are now at about $2.50 per thousand cubic feet. At those prices, it takes about $82 worth of natural gas to make a ton of anhydrous ammonia, which is selling for about $800 per ton.”
Once they saw the profits in the fertilizer industry, the Kochs decided it wasn’t enough, and they soon decided to get into the beef industry. Their company president, Dave Robertson,a new company that builds kill floors, deals with processing, vacuum and modified atmosphere packaging, and more.
Monsanto and its biotech brethren have quickly taken over the seed and pesticide industries, and we now have the fossil fuel industries snatching up the rest. If we allow these trends to continue unabated, what will be left for the farmers, the consumers, the environment? As a recent acquaintance stated, ”By making the daily choice of eating processed foods and supporting the commodity crops and factory farmed animals produced by big agriculture, we are directly contributing to the environmental destruction of America – and the staggering wealth of big players like the Koch Brothers.”
Where do we go from here?