Reader calls potash project smoke and mirrors

To the editor,

Here again is my yearly reminder to readers to take with a grain of salt (pun intended) the promises made by the proponents of the proposed Michigan Potash Project. As one of the closest neighbors to this proposed facility, I can assure you that we’ve heard these benefits espoused ad nauseam since 2011.

While these glib efforts on the part of MPSC have convinced many of my neighbors to part with their land and mineral rights, it has now been 11 years with nary a job added to our community nor a single well being drilled, let alone the long promised royalty checks. Now MPSC has begun making the news again as the homegrown answer to the USA’s “dependence” on Russian potash.

Friends, this is smoke and mirrors of the worst kind. Let me tell you why: The U.S. receives 86% of its potash from Canada. Less than 8% of the potash used by the U.S. comes from Russia, and Canada has already increased production of their Elk Point Basin to cover any shortfall without the need for a single well to be drilled in Osceola County, Michigan.

In fact, as a gentle reminder — a potash/salt plant already exists in Hersey, Michigan, less than 2 miles from the proposed site of the Michigan Potash & Salt Company. Currently called Cargill Salt, this plant was built in the 80s and promised the same things: jobs, money and reduced costs for farmers. Thirty-five years and three corporate owners later (all big multinational fertilizer players), the Cargill Hersey plant now only produces salt products and employs less than 80 people.

If there was an ongoing need for local potash production, we have had four decades and the efforts three experienced multinational fertilizer companies to make a go of it. It is concerning that three major players in the potash industry have ultimately sold their interests in this location, but a tiny, inexperienced and undercapitalized startup thinks they can do something the multinationals could not.

If none of the above moved you, then I would remind readers of simple logistics: The U.S. is experiencing unprecedented delays in construction and material supplies. There is no way that the proposed facility could be built in a time frame that would make useful strides in reducing potash prices for local farmers. And those prices are indefensibly high. However, the current market volatility in potash prices is expected to be corrected by the second quarter of the '22 calendar year, with stark corrections evident by the second half of the '22 fiscal year. (See Potash Outlook 2022, Investing News Network, 1/25/22.)

I love living in rural northern Michigan. My husband and I (both Reed City Alumni) chose to build our home and raise our two daughters amongst the same streams and forests I loved as a child. Of the 11 individuals on the MPSC management team, six live and work 900-plus miles away from these lands. These individuals include the four “big guys” — the CEO, the COO, the CDO, and the Chief Sustainability Officer. They have zero ties to the area, and have shown no interest in creating meaningful ties in the 11 years that they’ve been cultivating this project.

As outsiders, they do not care what happens to the land or the aquifers they intend to exploit. As a local, I do, and I’m repulsed that MPSC’s management team would use the travesty in Ukraine to further their economic agenda. Shame on MPSC’s management, shame on the legislators who did not do their research before voting for SB565, and shame on anyone who has forgotten that we cannot eat money. Not even through the liberal application of potash.
Maggie Walcott,