© 2024 Boise State Public Radio
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Look At Idaho's Multimillion Dollar Fertilizer Industry


The deadly explosion at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas Wednesday, has put a spotlight on the industry.  According to NPR, 12 people died and 200 were injured. 

While investigators are still determining what caused the massive blast, traces of the highly explosive ammonium nitrate have been found.

According to The Washington Post, the U.S. fertilizer industry is worth about $10 billion. In Idaho, fertilizer products are among the state's top exports.

Fertilizer production comes with some occasional risks. The ammonium nitrate that’s commonly used for synthetic fertilizer can explode if ignited at very high temperatures. That’s fairly rare, but it does happen — there have been at least 17 major explosions worldwide since 1921. -The Washington Post

The Guardian published a map that shows fertilizer facilities across the country, and pinpoints five facilities in Idaho. Here, at least two plants manufacture phosphorus-based fertilizer. J.R Simplot Co. has a plant in Pocatello, and Agrium Inc.'soperations are near Soda Springs. Simplot also has a phosphate mining operation.

Two other facilities are owned by Monsanto that mine and process phosphate, which is used to make the weed-killer Roundup. A spokesman said what happened at the facility in Texas couldn't happen at Idaho's Monsanto locations because ammonium nitrate isn't used.

A Simplot spokesman declined to elaborate on the compounds used at the plant. But the company released this statement:

Our hearts go out to the people of West, Texas this morning as they struggle to recover from last night’s tragic incident. There is nothing more important to the J. R. Simplot Company than the safety of our employees and communities. This is why we are so diligent in everything we do every day to ensure the safety of our operations. Like the rest of the public, we are waiting for this investigation to be complete so that we understand the facts related to this incident. - J.R. Simplot Company

Agrium did not immediately respond to calls on their fertilizer facility near Soda Springs. 

You can learn more about phosphate in Idaho at StateImpact Idaho.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.

You make stories like this possible.

The biggest portion of Boise State Public Radio's funding comes from readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

Your donation today helps make our local reporting free for our entire community.