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Compass Minerals International, inc (CMP) Q2 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

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CMP earnings call for the period ending June 30, 2021.

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Compass Minerals International, inc (CMP 1.35%)
Q2 2021 Earnings Call
Aug 16, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning and welcome to the Compass Minerals Second Quarter 2021 Earnings Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] Please be advised that today's conference is being recorded.

I'd now like to turn the call over to Douglas Kris, Senior Director of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

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Douglas Kris -- Senior Director of Investor Relations

Good morning and welcome to the Compass Minerals second quarter 2021 earnings conference call. Today, we will discuss our recent results and our outlook for the balance of 2021. We will begin with prepared remarks from our President and CEO, Kevin Crutchfield; and our CFO, Jamie Standen. Joining in for the Q&A session today are Brad Griffith, our Chief Commercial Officer; as well as George Schuller, our Chief Operations Officer. Before we get started, I will remind everyone that the remarks made today represent our view of our financial and operational outlooks as of today's date, August 16, 2021.

These expectations involve risks and uncertainties that could cause the company's actual results to differ materially. A discussion of these risks can be found in our SEC filings located online at investors.compassminerals.com. Our remarks today also include certain non-GAAP financial measures. You can find reconciliations of these items in our earnings release or in our presentation, both of which are also available online. The results of our earnings release issued Friday, August 13, and presented during this call reflects only the continuing operations of the business unless otherwise noted.

The results also restate historic amounts for comparative purposes and reflect adjustments to information presented in the company's previously filed Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020 and Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2021. As previously announced the nine-month 2021 fiscal year reflects the change in fiscal year end from December 31 to September 30.

I will now turn the call over to Kevin Crutchfield, our President and CEO.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning. And thanks for taking the time to participate today. While I'll kick off my comments with a brief overview of our financial performance for the second quarter, I also want to take a few minutes to review where we stand as a company in light of our leadership teams' previously communicated strategic priorities. As reported, we maintained solid momentum in the second quarter controlling what we could control in pricing and salt sales volumes. Ultimately that work resulted in strong consolidated revenue growth of 14% compared to the prior year period as meaningful contributions from both Salt and Plant Nutrition enabled us to exceed our top line revenue expectations for the quarter.

We continue to work through our previously reported sulfate of potash feedstock inconsistencies and managing around supply chain disruption and inflated shipping costs which are not unique to our industry. While both our consolidated operating earnings and adjusted EBITDA saw second quarter declines compared to the prior year largely due to margin compression during the quarter, year-to-date we've seen measured growth in these categories of 20% and 13% respectively. I'm pleased with the way our team continues to navigate this challenging environment staying laser-focused on execution in our core businesses.

In fact during the first half of 2021, we generated strong positive free cash flow of $220 million, an increase of approximately 23% versus the prior year. On the cost management side, we've taken prudent steps to control our selling, general and administrative expenses compared to the prior year. We also continued to actively manage our capital plan with spending in that category coming in at approximately $34 million a year-to-date. Focusing on our Salt segment for a moment, second quarter revenues were better than expectations at over a $142 million while operating earnings of approximately $19 million and EBITDA of $37 million were both down primarily driven by a 28% increase in shipping and handling costs for the segment.

Our reported Salt segment results for the quarter were also impacted by an accounting methodology change that Jamie will discuss in more detail. When considering our Salt results on a year-to-date basis, however, we've achieved meaningful growth of 23% in operating earnings and 20% in EBITDA for the segment. Regarding the 2021-2022 bid season four our North American highway business, we continue to take a disciplined approach balancing market share with margin capture while always looking for opportunities to strategically expand our footprint. With our bid season approximately 80% complete, we expect average contract pricing for this winter season to be generally consistent with the prior season results while our total committed bid volumes are expected to increase by approximately 7%.

Moving to our Plant Nutrition segment, an increase in average selling price of 6% and relatively flat volumes in the second quarter compared to prior year translated to $54 million of revenue for the segment, which was slightly better than expectations. Operating earnings for the segment were $5.6 million lower compared to second quarter 2020 while EBITDA came in at $9.8 million, roughly in line with expectations given our previously discussed feedstock inconsistencies that are anticipated to weigh on segment costs at least through the third quarter of this year.

We continue to believe the impact of the feedstock quality issues on the cost structure of our Plant Nutrition business is short term in nature and the proactive adjustments that we've implemented to address the issue have shown favorable incremental results. We're also actively monitoring the ongoing drought conditions in the Western U.S. and continually assessing how they might potentially impact near-term demand for our potassium plus SOP product. SOP sales volumes remain stable through the quarter and we expect volumes to remain steady through September compared to the prior year quarter.

However, we'll continue to keep a close eye on demand as the drought season continues as there could be volume impact later in the 2021 calendar year. As I alluded to at the beginning of my comments today I'd like to now shift gears from the quarterly recap to provide some color on our strategic execution as a company. When I joined the Compass Minerals in mid-2019 one of my first tasks as Chief Executive Officer was to set a course for Compass Minerals that acknowledged but didn't dwell on the challenges of the past. That recognize long term success must be built on a foundation of consistent execution and they provided clarity to both our employees and our external stakeholders as to what kind of company we were committed to becoming.

With the help of my senior management team, I outlined early 2023 priority focus areas for our company; building a sustainable culture, delivering on our commitments and conducting a deep strategic assessment of our advantaged assets and related capabilities. It's been approximately 18 months since we've laid out those priorities and while there still is certainly work to be done, I'm extremely pleased with how far we've come in that short time span. Over the course of the last six months in particular, we have successfully executed against a number of strategic priorities that provided the company with a platform to generate material long-term benefits to our shareholders.

Paramount to building a sustainable culture is ensuring the safety and well-being of our workforce. We focus on zero harm and parity for our people and our environment by continuing to strengthen safety and environmental stewardship processes across all sites with the ultimate goal of zero injuries or incidents in the workplace. We continue to enhance employee safety training, which focuses on elimination of at-risk behaviors and we maintain a culture of open communication and trust by empowering every employee to stop any work process they deemed to be unsafe. I'm proud to say the results of our safety focus was reflected in the first quarter of this year by multi-year low for our total case incident rate or TCIR 12-month rolling average.

That strong safety performance continued through the second quarter with a rolling 12-month TCIR of 1.48 representing a significant improvement over the previous five-year period. As you heard me say before, we believe our safety performance is a leading indicator for operational success and one of our fundamental commitments to creating a sustainable business. The other half of building a sustainable culture required increasing our levels of employee engagement and our execution muscle, which has been a key focus of our internal optimization effort that we launched in the fall of 2019.

Making improvements in this area doesn't come easily or quickly and it requires a certain level of humility as an organization to gain self-awareness about what we do well, where we can get better and what steps are required to get there. While I'm generally pleased with the strides we've made in this category including but not limited to our commitment as a board and senior management team to ensuring diversity and inclusion throughout all levels of the organization, this will continue to be an ongoing area of focus for our company. Through our increased execution muscle, we've enabled improvements in our second strategic imperative delivering on our commitments.

The foundation of this priority is simple. Be clear with our stakeholders about our goals, capabilities and challenges and then do what we say we're going to do. We've talked a lot on these quarterly calls about the other half of our internal optimization effort, creating value for the organization through a bottom up process of innovation and continuous improvement. We're purposeful in not calling these efforts a program as they permeate through all levels of the organization that are increasingly becoming simply how we do business here at Compass Minerals.

As it has clearly been a strategic focus for our team that offer recent performance at our Goderich mine is probably the most salient example of our efforts to-date. Over the course of the last two years, we've made meaningful improvements in both production and safety hitting internal records in both categories. We've implemented a new long-term mine plan to increase production efficiencies and extend the longevity of this strategic core asset. And as reflected in the historic five-year collective bargaining agreement secured in late March, we've buttressed those efforts by committing time, energy and resources toward rebuilding strong and lasting relationships with both our represented workforce at Goderich and the community they call home.

But despite this progress I still believe we have room to grow at Goderich where we can say it has fully reached its operating potential, which brings me to the final area of strategic focus I've often spoken about, positioning our company for success by getting our core asset mix right, finding new ways to leverage those advantaged assets and strengthening our balance sheet in the process. In this area, our actions have been well-documented. With the completed sale of our North American micronutrients business in April followed July 1 with the completed divestment of our South American Plant Nutrition business, we achieved the financial flexibility needed to consider strategic growth opportunities, whether organic or otherwise.

Specifically, these transactions have enabled us to reduce our long-term debt by approximately $400 million. In addition we continue to pursue a sale of our South American Chemical business and look forward to sharing more information around that expected transaction when appropriate. And finally, as we announced several weeks ago, we're excited by the opportunity to broaden our essential mineral portfolio through the identification of a sustainable lithium resource at our Ogden, Utah solar evaporation site on the Great Salt Lake.

We're currently undertaking a strategic evaluation to assess development options for this lithium brine resource in order to service growing domestic market demand while maximizing the long-term value of the asset. As a co-product of our existing SOP, salt and magnesium chloride production processes, the addition of lithium to our Ogden production portfolio is not expected to have an impact on the essential minerals we already produce outside. Equally as important by leveraging existing operational infrastructure permits and pond processes at our Ogden facility, we believe we're uniquely positioned to capture this newly defined lithium resource with nominal incremental impact to the beds and waters of the Great Salt Lake.

We feel this organic opportunity is well aligned with our strategic imperatives and we're excited to share more details soon on this and other future projects that lie ahead. But opportunities like this are only feasible if the underlying fundamentals of our operating segments are sound and remain highly confident about the inherent strengths of our advantaged assets, the resiliency and commitment of our people and the discipline with which we operate. As we continue to advance our strategy and grow our central minerals business we do so with a deep commitment toward generating sustainable earnings growth and EBITDA margins thereby creating value for all stakeholders.

Now at this time, I'll turn it over to Jamie who will discuss in more detail our second quarter financial performance and the rest of the year outlook. Jamie?

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Kevin, and good morning everyone. I'll start with a few comments regarding our consolidated results before moving on to our segment-specific performance and then finishing with our rest of year outlook. On a consolidated basis for second quarter 2021, the company achieved strong year-over-year sales volume growth in our Salt segment and increased pricing in our Plant Nutrition segment compared to prior year results. Despite this top line revenue uplift, our consolidated operating income was below the prior year period by approximately $9 million, while our consolidated adjusted EBITDA fell 21% compared to 2020.

Over the same period, we saw both operating margins and EBITDA margins compress. This compression is primarily related to unit costs associated with the feedstock inconsistencies for our SOP production that we've highlighted over the last two quarters as well as elevated shipping and handling costs in the Salt segment. We are pleased to report that during the first six months of the year, we generated about $255 million in cash flow from continuing operations and approximately $222 million of free cash flow. As announced in June, our Board of Directors approved a change in our fiscal year-end to September 30 from December 31.

We're optimistic this change will improve our full year forecasting accuracy going forward as we will have the benefit of embedding complete highway deicing bid season results within our full year forecast at the beginning of each fiscal year. From an accounting perspective, the shorter nine-month year in 2021 impacts our results in a couple of different ways. First, it temporarily increased our expected effective tax rate to 40% and therefore increased our year-to-date tax expense to $17.7 million. However, this is not expected to impact our effective tax rate or cash taxes over the typical 12-month period.

Similarly, changing to a shorter year temporarily increases our unit costs in both the Plant Nutrition and Salt business during the second and third quarters by about $20 per ton and $0.50 per ton respectively. Looking now at our Salt segment results, total sales in the second quarter of 2021 were $143 million, up from $122 million in the second quarter of 2020, an increase of approximately 17% and ahead of expectations. This improvement was largely due to additional demand related to customers taking minimum volumes as well as the timing of certain chemical sales. In addition, our consumer and industrial sales volumes returned to more typical levels as demand normalized compared to last year, which was negatively impacted by the early months of the pandemic.

As expected, highway deicing prices at $59.42 per ton were slightly lower versus the prior year quarter. I think it is important to note that while we have seen lower highway deicing prices over the last four quarters, highway deicing prices have actually shown a 4% average annual growth rate since 2017. On the other hand, consumer and industrial average selling prices increased over $8 or 5% to $158.78 per ton due to broad-based inflation-related price increases across all of our product groups. Operating earnings for the Salt segment totaled $19.2 million for the second quarter versus $22.5 million in the 2020 quarter while EBITDA for the Salt segment totaled $36.8 million compared to $39.7 million in the prior year quarter.

On a year-to-date basis, these segment results are at the high end of our second quarter guidance expectations. Our operating and EBITDA margins contracted approximately 5 percentage points and 7 percentage points respectively compared to the 2020 second quarter, which is mostly due to a 28% increase in shipping and handling unit costs, impacting both our highway deicing and consumer and industrial businesses. Again when comparing on a year-to-date, Salt operating margins are flat year-over-year, EBITDA margins contracted only 1 percentage point and shipping and handling unit costs are flat as well. That being said, we did expect these higher shipping and handling costs this quarter, which fall into three primary buckets.

First, vessel and barge costs were higher year-over-year, largely due to higher fuel costs as well as modest rate increases. Another bucket is related to our depot costs. In this area, we added some long term capacity and saw higher overall rents. The last piece was related to distribution costs in our C&I business. While mix played a role in the increases, we saw significantly higher truck rates as well as some logical shipping required to overcome supply chain disruptions during the quarter. Overall, we believe the entire Salt industry has been similarly impacted by shipping and handling costs. Therefore we expect to adjust our future bid prices and product repricing as appropriate to offset these costs just like we have in the past.

Second quarter Salt per unit cash costs were relatively flat from second quarter 2020, as improved UK production costs were offset by higher production costs in the consumer and industrial business. Turning to our Plant Nutrition segment, second quarter 2021 revenue was 5% higher than the prior year quarter at $53.8 million. This reflects steady sales volumes and an increase of 6% in our average selling price compared to the prior year quarter. It's worth noting that during the second quarter there has clearly been strong global demand for all fertilizer products. We've generally continued to see strong demand in North America for our potassium plus SOP product. And though that was partially offset by the severe drought conditions in the West and Southwest, we are pleased to deliver 6% sequential improvement in our average sales price compared to the first quarter of 2021.

Plant Nutrition operating earnings were down $5.6 million and EBITDA was down $6.1 million to $9.8 million for the second quarter compared to the second quarter 2020. With higher prices and lower earnings we experienced some short-term compression in our operating margins from 12% down to 1%, while our EBITDA margins also compressed by 13 percentage points to 18% versus second quarter 2020. As we have previously discussed, we continue to experience higher per unit operating costs during the second quarter as we work through the feedstock inconsistencies impacting our SOP production rates. While this continues to impact our financial results these elevated short-term costs are factored into our guidance and we have implemented proactive measures to address the situation.

We also made a change to our interim period inventory valuation methodology. As we work through our normal quarterly closing process, we identified the need to correct our interpretation of the accounting guidance as it relates to our Salt segment interim period inventory evaluation reporting. It's important to note that this correction impacts interim periods only and does not impact our historical full year results. When compared to our new method, our historical interpretation overstated first quarter product costs and understated subsequent quarter product costs with no impact to the full year results. For 2021, this resulted in shifting approximately $12 million in costs from first quarter 2021 to subsequent periods.

About $11 million of those costs were recorded in the second quarter this year. Our second quarter 2021 Form 10-Q described this change and restated our year-to-date 2021 financial information as well as our prior year-to-date information. Because we are making corrections to these prior periods, we also restated our financials for other immaterial items including shifting a few of these items into the appropriate periods. It's very important to note that the change in methodology as well as the other corrections are now reflected in all periods presented in our second quarter 2021 financial statements.

Now, I'll spend a few minutes on our reporting as well as our third quarter and nine-month 2021 outlook. Given the change in our fiscal year ended September 30, the company will file a transition report on Form 10-K for the shortened 2021 fiscal year sometime in November. After this shorten period, full year reporting will consist of four full quarters beginning October 1 and a year end of September 30 each year. At this time we are providing nine month 2021 guidance on a pro forma continuing operations basis, which excludes results from our discontinued operations. As we head into our final quarter of fiscal year 2021 we continue to be optimistic about the overall business.

We anticipate the Salt segment will provide steady revenue and EBITDA generation for the remainder of our new fiscal year. We expect third quarter Salt segment revenue of $160 million to $190 million and EBITDA of $45 million to $55 million with our Consumer and Industrial business continuing to deliver steady sales volumes. In our Plant Nutrition segment, we currently anticipate relatively flat year-over-year sales volumes during the third quarter. However, the continued drought in the Western U.S. could put some pressure on our sales volumes in the back half of the calendar year. So, we continue to closely monitor the situation out west.

Given this demand backdrop, coupled with our expectation of rising shipping and handling expenses, as well as unit costs slightly higher than those realized in the second quarter we are expecting Plant Nutrition revenue of $28 million to $36 million and EBITDA in the range of $5 million to $8 million for the third quarter of 2021. While we continue to optimize our portfolio through efforts to balance price, demand and customer relationships, we are focused on operating this business sustainably for the long run and plan to carefully navigate these dynamics. On a consolidated basis for the nine-month 2021 period we expect our adjusted EBITDA to be between $175 million and $185 million.

Now a few corporate items, our interest expense estimate for the nine months of year is approximately $46 million as we significantly lowered our debt levels in July. Our nine month capital spending forecast is approximately $70 million and our free cash flow is expected to be in the $70 million to $75 million range. With the closing of the Plant Nutrition South America Agro business sale along with the completed North American micronutrient sale, we have been able to meaningfully reduce our absolute debt levels and continue to expect our leverage ratio to be in the 2.75 times to 3 times net-debt-to-EBITDA range upon completion of our Brazil Chemical business divestiture.

As we consider our short and long term paths forward, we are pleased with the continued efficiency we've been able to capture from our internal optimization plan and we're excited for the future as our strategic assessment of our newly defined lithium resource progresses. As Kevin noted in his comments, our entire senior management team is unified in our focus on executing against the strategic imperatives we have laid out for the company as we continue to optimize our existing assets and build our essential minerals portfolio we will continue to aim to optimally allocate capital in a way that maximizes shareholder value.

With that, I'll ask the operator to begin the Q&A session. Operator?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank.

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank North America -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning. Kevin just on the bid season pricing, the lack of any pricing, is that due to you couldn't get pricing or you didn't try to get pricing or to maximize some of your volume gains?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I'm not sure I caught all that question David. Would you mind repeating that? I apologize.

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank North America -- Analyst

Yeah. On the lack of any pricing in this highway deicing, is that a function of you couldn't get the pricing because of given competitive dynamics in the marketplace or you chose not to push pricing or to focus on volume and market share?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I mean, look we always take -- I mean first thing I'd say is every bid season is different. Our focus is to take a holistic comprehensive review and match our production plan with what we anticipate the demand side to be. So when you think about the winter other than February, I guess I'll probably characterize it as generally unremarkable so inventories to deal with. But I think on balance, ending of the year kind of flattish and having the ability to grow our volumes by roughly 7% turned out pretty good for us. And as you look back from sort of 2017 to now we're still in sort of a 4% compound annual growth rate on the price side. So I consider the season at least thus far we're 80% through. I consider it a very successful season having picked up some market share and grown our footprint on a modest basis.

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank North America -- Analyst

Understood. And just on the lithium asset and the Great Salt Lake, can you discuss some of the risks and challenges you see with daily technology for that resource?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, look as we announced about I guess it was a month ago, and our plan is to conduct deep thorough strategic assessment of the resource and the technologies as well as the type of structure we think would be appropriate to allow this asset to realize its maximum value. And I think obviously the first bridge we have to cross is the direct lithium extraction technology. And as we discussed during that previous period we're well on our way to making a choice there.

We've evaluated a handful of technologies. We're down to a couple but we want to make sure that we make a good selection but we're very long into that process and would expect to be able to make an announcement pretty soon. But everything that we've seen thus far in terms of lithium recovery and rejection of non-lithium materials, contaminants, if you will, has been very positive. But we want to take our time and make a good selection and we're getting pretty close and look forward to updating the market more.

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank North America -- Analyst

Thank you.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks David.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Mark Connelly with Stephens.

Mark Connelly -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

Thanks. Kevin could you remind us whether the newer continuous miners are fully ramped and what your operating plan is for the second half? And could you give us a rundown of which CMs are doing what at this point?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, so George is here with me. I'll let him add some color. The units are running well especially the two newer units. They're bigger, stronger as I mentioned during the first question we've kind of calibrated our volumes based on what we see the demand as being. So we're not producing at the level that we can because we felt like the market we wanted to balance our supply with the anticipated market side was. But in terms of how the units are running very, very well, I'll let George provide some additional color because the two bigger units the 46s are running overall very, very well.

George Schuller -- Chief Operations Officer

Yeah, and just a couple of comments on that Mark, thanks. Again, looking at those units as Kevin said, they're performing extremely well. We're real pleased with those units. As Kevin highlighted, our new mine plan, our new mains development we've taken some of the -- I'll call it older miners and keep it in mind if we continue to develop in those areas with those miners. So again, as Kevin highlighted, we still have a lot upside our workforce there. Our management team still believes there's a lot upside in both in the new equipment and plus that we have our 36 miners as well. So, again as we go through the next couple of years, as we finish that -- as we start to finish off that new mine development, it will give us a continual opportunity to improve our productivity and our costs at that location. Thanks.

Mark Connelly -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

One more question, on the SOP quality issues. Clearly this sort of thing comes and goes. When will you have visibility into when you're past this?

George Schuller -- Chief Operations Officer

Yeah, look maybe I'll start on that Jamie will kind of weigh in. And look, as Kevin highlighted there we've continue to make some real good progress both operationally and from a maintenance improvements over the last couple of quarters at our site development. Again you've heard from both we have seen some cyclical nature in regards to this. And we see it -- it's kind of hard to put a finger on it but I'll call it maybe every five to seven, eight years we'll actually see this phenomenon.

But we've taken a very methodical approach over the last, I'd say quarter-and-a-half, two quarters it all have been to take a look at our feedstock through harvest methods, sampling and our operating practice to not only allow us to deliver what we expect to deliver in 2021 but also as we encounter this in the future as we go through there. So I feel again, it's one that we don't -- you don't have year-in and year-out where you actually have exposure to kind of keep working on it. Again with this phenomenon happening every, as I said five to seven years you've got to take everything you possibly can during this period of time to try to learn from it. So we see it again. Jamie?

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. And I would also -- I'd just add that obviously we're coming up on the end of this evaporation season. So we'll have the fresh raw material feedstock, which as George alluded to, we're doing a lot more testing and monitoring. And we've really learned a lot over the last six months in terms of how to manage through this in terms of our mixing and prepping. And so with more data by pond, by section of pond, it enables us to mix and blend to optimize the plant, given the suboptimal quality of last year's harvest.

Mark Connelly -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

It's really helpful. Thank you.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Mark. I wanted to just go back for a sec on your first question. There's an image in our prepared materials on page 14. It's an illustrative view of the Goderich mine. And as George pointed out we pulled off some of the older units to develop these new roadways. So we continue to be implementing a new mine plan, putting a new mine basically in place while at the same time continuing to produce and broken a couple of internal records here even this year.

So I think it's important to note that that's occurring in a way that you really can't see from the outside looking in. So we're incurring a fair amount of cost as we develop this new mine plan and put these new bypass roadways in. But once we get those in as we've talked about before I think we'll see a step function change both in terms of productivity and cost, etc. So we still have a couple more years to go on that but it's progressing nicely and I thought that would be some nice added context.

Mark Connelly -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

Very helpful. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Seth Goldstein with Morningstar.

Seth Goldstein -- Morningstar, Inc. -- Analyst

Hi, good morning, everyone. Thanks for taking my question. With prices flat, how do you think about the profit per ton next year? And how do you view unit production costs? Have you hit the first step change? And we should stay flat until the new mine plans complete?

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

You want me to take that?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Go ahead and I'll answer [Indecipherable].

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So, we're not going to talk specifically about profitability in the upcoming year. So, I can't tell you we will see our salt costs fall in the third quarter relative to both sequentially and year-over-year. And there's still as George and Kevin were alluding the step change has not yet occurred that is still down the road as we complete the new mine plan and finish our bypass roads and ultimately shut down old mine works that are expensive to maintain and a long way to travel through. So, you'll have to wait for our full year guidance that we roll out in November for the full year beginning October 1 through September 30, 2022.

Seth Goldstein -- Morningstar, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. I appreciate that. And then just a quick follow-up on lithium, once you select DLE partner what are the next couple development steps as you move forward in the process?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think once we make the DLE selection. We're doing the onsite pilot testing now. Then the strategy will be to how do we set those modules up in a way a from a logistics standpoint, location standpoint, pumping standpoint, etc, to start the production of chloride. So that would be the key next step. So I think and I don't want to put a time limit on the DLE technology provider selection but I think in the relatively near-term but also during the strategic assessment we've indicated that we're open to discussions and it's been very active I would say at least thus far and we think that will inform how we think about this project going forward.

Seth Goldstein -- Morningstar, Inc. -- Analyst

I appreciate the details. Thank you.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Seth.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Joel Jackson with BMO Capital Markets.

Joel Jackson -- BMO Capital Markets Corp. -- Analyst

Good morning, gentlemen.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Joel.

Joel Jackson -- BMO Capital Markets Corp. -- Analyst

Hi. Jamie, Kevin I think you talked about being able to get maybe a $1 or two of lower salt costs. I think that was kind of looking well, yeah, looking in the future year. Now if you think of September fiscal year and you try to the comp it to, right time, so September '22 fiscal year, what can you do on costs here in salts considering the improvements you're trying to [Indecipherable] but obviously the multiple buckets of inflation and costs and shipping that you laid out earlier in the call? Thanks.

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank North America -- Analyst

Yes. So we've still got good opportunities there Joel. I think one thing to remember about our business is we're extracting minerals. Many of our labor costs are set. We've got multiple collective bargaining agreements. Within our C&I business, we've obviously got some direct inputs bags and other things that drive that business. But I would say, overall we've got -- we're going to see lower cost, if you just look at the nine-month over nine-month, salt costs are going to be down significantly order of magnitude 10%. And then as we get into 2022, we're not going to talk much about that. We continue to work on our long-term mine plan. That step change is forthcoming.

We haven't said exactly when that will be as we progressed through that. And then you're going to see another, that's when you're going to see that next step down when we complete that mine plan. So, I think that's all we really have to say. We're not giving any outlook or any information around 2022 just yet. But we do expect to continue to see improvement for the reasons of our limited exposure in many instances to inflation. Obviously, we'll continue to see shipping and handling inflation on that side. But as I said in my prepared remarks, we'll also look to recapture those costs as we go into our next bid season next year. And then we do it dynamically constantly within our C&I business.

Joel Jackson -- BMO Capital Markets Corp. -- Analyst

Okay. So my follow up on that is then, so your salt netbacks for fiscal '22 should be lower what you just said. And then just following up on that, I think it's important because you've talked about your strategy -- you've come in and what your base season strategy, what's your mine production planning strategy, you're very clear what you want to do and really trying to optimize Goderich. That has led to a lot of production and a lot of competitive response. Should you be able to track pricing and inflationary environment it would really be helpful if you can explain the entire picture what is running more volume from flat pricing and inflationary environment? I mean does that mean lower net backs to you next fiscal year? Does that make you want to reassess your strategy the way you're doing Goderich down the road when you look at what the market size is and what the competitors did?

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

Joel, I would say I would answer not specifically but just that -- we've recaptured some share that we have historically had and our commitments are up the 7%, pricing is flat. I mentioned in my prepared remarks prices on a CAGR basis up 4% since 2017. So prices went up high when supply was not available, supply is now available. They've come back down. We feel like there's an equilibrium now. I don't think there's any difference in strategy or how we run the business. I think we're going to now that we've set our market share where it is now we're going to be disciplined and operate that way going forward. Kevin, did you?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Allows us to focus on execution, Joel, because again like I mentioned before we've calibrated our volumes to match what we anticipate to be the market demand. We could do more. But we made the election not to, to -- so that we can regain some of the market share as Jamie said was ours originally anyway, and grew our footprint just a tad. But with that then on the commitment side it allows us to focus on execution both at Goderich and our other facilities and run them as a portfolio and then attempt to optimize the resulting margins as a consequence of that holistic approach.

Joel Jackson -- BMO Capital Markets Corp. -- Analyst

May I ask Kevin a question? I'm sorry, please.

George Schuller -- Chief Operations Officer

Yeah. I was going to make one comment just on to Kevin's. Lots of times from an operational perspective, as Jamie and Kevin referenced, there's always about tons in production. But I can assure you there's a real cost and financial acumen across our site leaders that is going to continue to -- as we start to look at our cost as we go into 2022 and 2023 that I think is extremely important and recognize cost to our business. Thanks.

Joel Jackson -- BMO Capital Markets Corp. -- Analyst

To answer with your question, you know obviously SOP is not potash and it doesn't see the same ranges of highs and lows and we're seeing that, I guess here in pricing. You've been very good -- you're getting very good price SOP, but is interesting that, you know one of the better years for Ag in a decade, maybe not so good for California with drought, but you're achieving some of the lowest earnings in June and December quarters for SOP in like 14 years, any quarterly earnings.

And you're probably going to achieve the lowest SOP premiums set to Midwest potash prices in forever. Can you talk about that? Is that where the Midwest potash prices are just out to launch? They're not liquid. They're not real. There's some other things operationally we talked about, but how do you think about this business? Is this become now the child you have to really focus on the business? You've got some stuff like Goderich -- it's really about trying to make Ogden, try to be the assets competitors talk about for well over a decade?

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. No. That's a, that's a good one, Joel I think. Let me make a couple of comments. I think Brad has a couple of comments. You hit on a couple of good points but it's not good timing obviously for insurance when you look at our net, our profitability in this quarter. We've got these feedstock inconsistencies. And that's absolutely unfortunate. I think on the spread side as you referred to SOP versus MOP, not a lot of MOP has traded at some of those prices you've seen. There's not a lot of MOP even available. So that remains to be seen. Brad, do you want to add some color on the just general market?

Brad Griffith -- Chief Commercial Officer

Yeah. Thanks, Jamie. Hey, Joel. Your question on Midwest Potash, are those prices real? What I would say and I think you're probably referring to the $570 Corn Belt price for KCl. In our discussions with producers and with our distribution customers they don't feel like transactions are occurring rapidly at that dollar figure. Farmers are kind of pushing back, the crop economics don't make a lot of sense. And in some cases crops who have been fluoride-tolerant like potatoes have migrated to KCl.

Those same crops now there's a renewed interest in SOP simply because of the price delta between KCl and sulfate of potash. I'd make one more comment Joel. We took our third price list on August 1 in the market. Our prices vary by region and given current market dynamics that you're referring to, we do anticipate further ton appreciation of our potassium plus products. We're in active discussions right now with our customers and I would expect us to announce specifics to them in the coming days.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Chris Shaw. Mr. Shaw, please state your company name and proceed with your question.

Chris Shaw -- Moness, Crespi & Hardt -- Analyst

Yeah. It's Moness, Crespi & Hardt. Hey, everyone. How are you doing?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Chris Shaw -- Moness, Crespi & Hardt -- Analyst

Two quick ones, on the bid season the pricing and I was curious the higher shipping and freight costs. Did they start coming about too late for you to start planning that into your bid season? I know that the bid season start like March or maybe in February for some. But even in those in the later bids you weren't able sort of I don't -- budgeted that into some of your bids?

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

We've monitored it very closely. As it relates to the highway business, a lot of what we're doing right now is the vessel and barge. We were expecting higher rates. We built that into our bidding process. And so now we're kind of booking these bids. And last mile freight still remains to be seen. We'll deliver these tons through the December quarter and the March quarter as we always do. And we've got an estimate around those things. And then on the C&I side, truck just got real expensive and more than we thought. So while unit cost for shipping and handling in salt is up to $6 or so a ton year-over-year. We were expecting $4, $4.50. So most of it we were planning on, we really just got hit on truck and some fuel was a bit higher than we expected.

Chris Shaw -- Moness, Crespi & Hardt -- Analyst

Got it, that's helpful. And then I guess the guidance for SOP volumes for third quarter similar last year or somewhere that sort of 50,000 to 60,000 tons. You're saying that's sort of a normal. But in the past I always thought that'd be a really sort of weak quarter. I know it's similar to last year. Is there increased seasonality that I'm not aware of or don't remember or is that some evidence of the drought impacting volumes already?

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

You want to take that Brad or?

Brad Griffith -- Chief Commercial Officer

Yeah, I don't, thanks Jamie, I don't think there is any kind of seasonality change Chris. I think right now our distribution customers just want to get product in place so that they can position it adequately for applications. And I think there's still a significant amount of demand by nut growers, by citrus, and berries, these chlorides sensitive crops for sulfate or potash. So I don't see any changes in seasonality. I think I've been surprised at the Southwest fertilizer conference. Our team heard fairly optimistic reports from our distribution customers and some of our larger end user producers so it's a very resilient group of people and so I would expect to see things relatively consistent Chris.

Chris Shaw -- Moness, Crespi & Hardt -- Analyst

Okay, great. That's helpful. Thanks a lot guys.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your next question comes from the line of David Silver with C.L. King.

David Silver -- C.L. King & Associates, Inc. -- Analyst

Yeah, hi. Good morning. I think I'd like to start with a question on your Salt volumes, so in the second quarter, I mean from a historical perspective both your dicing volumes and your C&I volumes were both kind of at the very upper end or even above the upper end of May be the last 10 years. And the combination I think is highest in more than a decade. So I'm just wondering why you found incremental demand for salt in the seasonally slow second quarter? And in particular I'm kind of scratching my head and I'm wondering if this is an Avery Island effect. In other words, are you capturing some incremental share that may be used to go to a competitor? Thank you.

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

I would say, I would say generally C&I, hitting C&I first, the business has done a really good job. Those volumes are solid. Last year was obviously depressed from the pandemic. But we are -- we did see some modestly higher volumes when you look back over the last five years or so for sure. On the highway deicing side we had some -- we were able to book some nice business in the chemical franchise there. That could be a little bit of timing. Sometimes those ebb and flow whether you get some of those contracts in the second quarter or the third quarter in terms of deliveries.

And then you had a combination of a little bit of hangover weather April, you remember how weak March was. April picked up. We saw a little bit of sales from that. And then we really saw as Kevin alluded to, the overall market outside -- the overall season outside of a really strong February, there were a number of our customers that just didn't take their minimums during the season. So those were really flowing through the quarter as well. So it's combination of things and that's kind of the summary.

David Silver -- C.L. King & Associates, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks. Yeah, I was just kind of scratching my head especially last year I think there was a benefit from some contract minimum shipments in the second quarter. Okay.

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. But remember we did increase our commitments last year as well so that kind of builds from year-to-year.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And I think too David, with freight it's kind of constraining imports. And while I think some inventories acted as a little bit of a buffer as it relates to Avery Island, I mean there could be some of that effect flowing through. It's kind of hard to tell. But we do think just kind of given where seaborne freight rates are it's going to -- it's going to be more challenging for the more traditional importers.

David Silver -- C.L. King & Associates, Inc. -- Analyst

Weaker dollar, higher freights, right? That gives you a little extra advantage. Okay, I'm going to switch over to the lithium thing. So I know it's very early days and there are a number of decisions and options to consider probably in a sequential manner. But I guess one option would be to partner with another company. And I guess I'm just wondering if you could maybe discuss what you would consider an ideal partner to bring to the table. So in other words you're going to have a separate technology provider. I'm guessing the partner has to bring some capital to the table. But anything beyond that that you would consider especially attractive in considering choosing the partner or joint venture route as opposed to go it alone strategy? Thank you.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, that's a great question and I would just reemphasize what I said the last time is we haven't decided that anything is definitely on the table or off the table. We're really trying to think this through. And as we think about the book-ins, the options it could be go it alone. We developed the expertise internally, the go-to-market strategy. We're fully capitalized in which we think we could do or the other extreme would be to sever that estate out there and just sell that asset as an estate and it would be co-producers on site there at Ogden and then everything in between. And then, as it relates to the partner, I think unlike a lot of the folks that are trying to get into this space, capital is not a big concern for us. I mean, look capital is always a concern, but it's not the kind of concern for us that it would be for, some lithium type start-up.

So I think what we'd be looking for -- I mean capital is certainly among them, but I think a higher priority would be expertise in the space whether that's on the -- the technical side or the commercial side. That's probably how we -- the lens through which we would evaluate a partnership is we have the resource and all of the rights necessary to develop it. And I think from an operating standpoint, I don't want to underplay the difficulty but it is a co-product where we're good at extracting products from the Great Salt Lakes, but there's aspects of this business that are new to us and we want to be intellectually honest about that. So I think a partner that has expertise in the space, in areas that we dealt would be something that we would view very favorably.

David Silver -- C.L. King & Associates, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. And I'm just going to squeeze in one last one but also on lithium. I was wondering if you could maybe give us your early read on the labor outlook there. So in other words you're going to need a surge of construction workers at a certain point and then a smaller but long-lasting workforce to operate the facility once the construction is done. And I apologize not an expert on the labor situation out there but any idea, just rough house what a construction crew size might be? And then how do you assess that availability, the regional availability for the type of labor that you need? Thank you.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I wouldn't want to speculate on head count at this point. What I would say is probably consistent with the rest of extractive businesses, labors tight. It's creating some inflation on the price -- the price of labor to create an inducement for people to go take a new job. So we're fully aware of that. But everything we've seen thus far we're convinced that we can fill the slots that we want to fill. And then as it relates to construction ultimately what the project looks like we will need to decide that first. But I think I would just say right now we'll cross that bridge when we get to it and I wouldn't want to speculate too much on how fast we can get it done.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Jeff Zekauskas. Mr. Zekauskas please state your company name and proceed with your question.

Jeff Zekauskas -- J. P. Morgan & Co. -- Analyst

J.P. Morgan. Thanks very much. Given that the Avery Island plant was -- I don't know, one to two million tons that got knocked out. Are you surprised that salt prices are likely to be flat in the bid season this year? Wouldn't you have expected them to be higher? And can you talk about what the dynamics were? Why the closing of that plant didn't make any difference?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, look I mean I guess what I'd say Jeff, it's a good question and I think as I mentioned earlier there were some inventories were a little elevated. So I think that probably acted as a bit of a buffer. And I think in this business sometimes it moves a little slower than businesses that were used to on the full commodities side that might take another bid season for the full effects of Avery Island to kind of flow through, something that we're watching carefully. And look, I'm sure that the folks that closed Avery Island did everything that they could to replenish their own sources of supply so as to maintain their economics to the extent possible. But I would say that it will take another sort of bid season for that full effect to flow through. Any color you'd add to that Brad?

Brad Griffith -- Chief Commercial Officer

I think that's good Kevin. Just to reiterate a comment you made earlier which is that there's 20% of the season in front of us. And so there are a number of times that would have historically been served from that Avery Island location that we have yet to bid.

Jeff Zekauskas -- J. P. Morgan & Co. -- Analyst

Okay. On lithium, you've spoken about what your resources are. In general, how much lithium carbonate equivalent tons can you produce annually and in the production of those lithium tons will that affect your SOP output or your output of any other mineral or do they remain unchanged?

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So we spoke when we announced the resource production target of 20,000 to 25,000 tons a year of LCE. And based on early pilot testing, we don't believe that pulling the lithium ions out of the existing stream there impacts SOP stream, the mag chloride stream, salt, etc. We just view it as a as a co-product. We're just taking the lithium ions out of the existing streams and don't think that process will compromise the production rates or costs of any of our other product.

Jeff Zekauskas -- J. P. Morgan & Co. -- Analyst

Okay, great. And then lastly in the change in your fiscal year, can you state a little bit more clearly what you know at September 30 that you don't know at June 30? Because you have an idea of what your bid season is going to be like or 80% of the volume. You have an idea of what your price is like and September 30 is still before the snowfall. So what incrementally do you know? What do you really get from changing your fiscal year?

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Jeff, it's actually not relative to $630 million but instead to January 1, so when we announce our -- historically our full year guidance for the year like we did this year in February we are estimating how the winter was going to unfold through March, how the entire bid season would go through September and then winter weather activity in the fourth quarter. Now we will have the full bid season under our belt as of $930 million and so we will have price for the season, for our portfolio. Now the only variable becomes winter weather activity. So, we'll announce our full year guidance in November with the benefit of the full bid season knowledge. So we can now more accurately predict our full year expected outcome always impacted by weather. We cannot do anything differently around weather.

Operator

There are no further questions. I will now turn the call over to Kevin Crutchfield for any closing remarks.

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We appreciate you tuning in today. And appreciate your interest in Compass Minerals. And look forward to keeping you updated as we move forward. Thank you again for attending. Have a good day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 65 minutes

Call participants:

Douglas Kris -- Senior Director of Investor Relations

Kevin S. Crutchfield -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Jamie Standen -- Chief Financial Officer

George Schuller -- Chief Operations Officer

Brad Griffith -- Chief Commercial Officer

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank North America -- Analyst

Mark Connelly -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

Seth Goldstein -- Morningstar, Inc. -- Analyst

Joel Jackson -- BMO Capital Markets Corp. -- Analyst

Chris Shaw -- Moness, Crespi & Hardt -- Analyst

David Silver -- C.L. King & Associates, Inc. -- Analyst

Jeff Zekauskas -- J. P. Morgan & Co. -- Analyst

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