FTC chair in Iowa to hear concerns about sale of southeast Iowa fertilizer plant

NEVADA — The chair of the Federal Trade Commission was in Iowa this weekend to hear concerns about consolidation in the fertilizer industry with the sale of a fertilizer plant in southeast Iowa. A Koch Industries subsidiary is buying the plant, but the sale is being reviewed by the FTC — and the agency could try to block the acquisition over competitiveness issues.

During an Iowa Farmers Union forum, Ankeny farmer LaVon Griffieon said it’s harder for farmers to make money and stay in business when a handful of companies control equipment, seeds and supplies like fertilizer. “This just keeps happening and happening in every aspect and so we really need to pay attention to what we’re doing to the heartland.”

After the forum, FTC chair Lina Khan said she understands the concerns given that the state invested millions in incentives to get the plant up and running as a competitor to Koch. “The goal being to have another company in the market to have some competition. The idea that now within a few years that competition that everybody invested in might go away seems troubling to a lot of people and I can understand that.”

Khan says if the FTC decides to intervene it will file a lawsuit to stop the purchase from being finalized. A judge would make the final decision. In a statement, a Koch Fertilizer spokesperson said the company is confident the deal will go through after the FTC hears from more customers and completes its analysis.