Associations Team Up to Improve Retail Fertilizer Safety, Security

After a series of disasters in recent years involving chemicals used in fertilizer, two industry groups will launch a new nonprofit to support fertilizer retailers’ compliance with federal safety and security regulations.

Two organizations representing retail agricultural and fertilizer industries are coming together to keep their members safe on the job and protect the public from chemical disasters.

With the explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant that killed 15 people last April still fresh in their minds, the Agricultural Retailers Association and the Fertilizer Institute unveiled their plan to help prevent another tragic accident.

At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) hearing last week, ARA and TFI announced the creation of ResponsibleAg, a nonprofit organization that will help fertilizer retailers comply with federal safety and security regulations. Also, a panel of technical experts from both groups published new guidelines for the storage and transportation of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate, the explosive chemical that was present at the Texas plant.

“While the vast majority of fertilizer retail businesses operate safely, securely, and in compliance with federal regulations, we are acting out of an abundance of caution and concern for the well-being of workers and communities,” TFI President Chris Jahn said at the hearing. “ResponsibleAg will verify compliance at more facilities and with greater speed than is currently being done by the multitude of federal agencies that regulate the nation’s fertilizer retailers, so we are choosing to act now rather than waiting for the next government inspection.”

According to the groups, ResponsibleAg, with the help of retail agricultural industry partner Asmark Institute, will train and certify auditors who will inspect and verify participating retail facilities’ compliance with federal regulations. Those that pass the inspections will be recognized, while those that don’t will be provided a checklist of recommended corrective actions. The group will also employ third-party auditors to conduct random quality-assurance reviews.

“Retailers want to do the right thing, but overlapping, duplicative, or potentially conflicting requirements make compliance a challenge,” said ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock. “This program will help retailers by collecting the regulatory requirements into one checklist and offering them tools and information to ensure their facilities conform to all current federal regulations.”

The EPW hearing was a follow-up to a 2013 presidential order that established a working group to the nation’s chemical facility safety and security following the Texas explosion and other chemical accidents

“The long list of chemical disasters in recent years demonstrates that urgent action is needed to reduce risk and protect the safety of our communities,” Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said in her opening statement. “Federal agencies and industry must act quickly to adopt safety measures that can save lives before another tragedy happens.”

Ammonium nitrate, shown in storage here, is a valuable fertilizer for farmers, though an explosion last year drew attention to its potential dangers. (PRNewsFoto/The Fertilizer Institute)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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