Bringing the Economy Home

Phosphate Drives Rural Caribou County’s Economy


Monsanto's Soda Springs, Idaho facility

The top employer in more than half of Idaho’s 44 counties is a local, state or federal government entity.  Sixteen counties have a private company as the largest employer.  We’re looking at who some of those private companies are, and in some cases, they’re a bit unexpected.

Shoshone County for instance, known for its rich history in the mining and timber industries, has a car dealer as its top employer.

In Idaho’s southeast corner, the top two employers are natural resource companies.  Caribou County’s top employer is Monsanto with between 300 and 400 employees.  Agrium U.S. Inc., comes in a close second with between 200 and 300 employees, according to data from the state.

Monsanto makes the weed-killer Roundup.  The key ingredient phosphorus, is mined in Soda Springs, Idaho by Monsanto’s subsidiary P4 Production LLC.

Jessica Pupovac / NPR StateImpact

Click on the map to see Caribou County's top five employers

“The phosphate ore processed through the plant comes from nearby phosphate deposits laid down in Permian-era oceans 250 million years ago. The ore is mined and transported 10-20 miles to the plant for processing. The first mine opened in 1952, and over the years three additional mines have been operated, all of which have provided phosphorous for Roundup brand herbicides and numerous other products.” – Monsanto

Agrium also mines phosphate near Soda Springs.  It operates a fertilizer production facility in Conda, just north of Soda Springs.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are almost 7,000 people living in Caribou County.  The population has declined nearly 5 percent since the 2000 census.  As for unemployment, Caribou County’s jobless rate has been below the state rate since 2008 and it never reached double-digit figures.



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