Published February 15, 2022

For the Farmer: Roundup Force Majeure

Written by
Charlie Adams
| The Dakotan
Chemical Warehouse [Photo: Charlie Adams]
Chemical Warehouse [Photo: Charlie Adams]

You know how the White House Press Secretary’s office sometimes does the political stunt of dropping big news late on a Friday when everyone is going into the weekend? Usually at that time, everybody wants to get out of there and nobody really cares, right? Well, Bayer Crop Science, the manufacturer of the agriculture herbicide Roundup, appeared to do that on Friday. At least that is what it seemed like in the social media circles over the weekend. However, by all accounts, this was a complete false alarm.

A letter from the Bayer Crop Science Global Head of Ingredient Manufacturing, Dr. Udo Schneider, found its way on to social media on Friday and simmered throughout the social media networks through the weekend. While area retailers had yet to hear anything official from local Bayer representatives, the letter announced a force majeure situation regarding a mechanical failure in a manufacturing facility. Declaring “force majeure” means that Bayer is basically claiming that unforeseeable circumstances are preventing them from fulfilling supply contract obligations. The letter went on to say that they expect repair of the mechanical failure to occur in around three months. They claim that their ability to supply customers with glyphosate (Roundup) or glyphosate-containing products as previously agreed upon has been impacted.

This exact scenario occurred late last fall and the letter seems as if it was just a reiteration of old news of Bayer declaring force majeure. Even though the letter was dated last Friday, it appears to be a re-issue of old statements. Bayer’s last word to local retailers was that it is prioritizing the Roundup to the domestic market and they are in great shape to cover normal market share.

Spraying Roundup [Photo: Hefty Seed Company]

The bottom line is that our local farmers are not getting rattled by this stuff anymore. Area farmers are becoming increasingly used to hearing about supply issues that have been lingering since the pandemic. A lot of our area farmers are prepared and have been picking up product early. Many stocked up on Roundup late last summer when the prices were starting to climb. Nationwide, farmers are strategically thinking about how to use less Roundup. There are ways to do this, and experienced retail agronomists have been training on this for months now.

Ryan Ellsworth, agronomist with Hefty Seed Company of Mohall, is not feeling any added pressure from the supply shortages. Of the situation in Mohall, he said, “We fully expect significant supply increases for 2023, but for this season we are going to have to make do with less product than we want.” Furthermore, he said, “when Roundup and Liberty get this high in price, it is better financially for most farmers to switch to alternative chemistries anyway.”

As of late yesterday, there were reports of this Bayer manufacturing issue being at a facility outside of the United States. That indicates that more than likely there will not be any further domestic disruptions to supply. So, definitely a false alarm. There may of course be supply issues by late summer, but there are many factors that can correct that between now and then. It will be interesting to see, nationally, how much less Roundup is used during spring’s work. With North Dakota being on the late end of the farming spectrum due to geography, Roundup surpluses may occur in other areas of the country. If the supply chain can react quickly, then the northern areas may turn out fine.

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