The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), in partnership with The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), has embarked on a Fertilizer Code of Practice Initiative. This member-led effort will lead to uniform safety guidelines for handling, storage and distribution of fertilizer products throughout the industry, and third-party inspections to ensure compliance with those guidelines. Safety for our members, employees, and the communities in which they live and work is of paramount importance to everyone in the fertilizer business. This Initiative embodies that commitment.
The process leading to this Initiative began in early 2013 when ARA's Board set an objective to evaluate existing codes of practice for anhydrous ammonia (NH3) fertilizer handling and storage, and determine the appropriate approach to take in the United States. Following the unfortunate incident in West, Texas, on April 17, the scope of the Initiative was broadened to include ammonium nitrate (AN).
The goal of the Initiative is to create an inspection and auditing system that is transparent, practical, simple and efficient for retailers, and effective in improving safety. The existing system, with specific regulations coming from different agencies, results in a confusing compliance puzzle that in some cases has duplications and in others has gaps. The Initiative will provide a comprehensive collection of regulatory requirements and industry best management practices into one code of practice, with subparts for product-specific issues. Part of the mission is also to integrate as much as possible with existing state regulatory programs, again with the goal of efficient compliance for retailers.
Workgroups will be meeting over the summer months of 2013 to develop details. While some details will undoubtedly change through this process, a fundamental component is third party audits. Third-party inspectors will base their audits on adherence to the code of practice. The results of the inspection will be made available to participating suppliers, so they know the audit results for the company they're shipping to, and retailers will also be able to verify that their suppliers are participating.
The ARA Board of Directors will receive an initial update report at its fall meeting on September 18, 2013. A presentation and discussion for ARA member retailers will be provided at ARA's Annual Conference in December. As an interim step, ARA and TFI, in cooperation with the Asmark Institute and the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA), are making information available to retailers about a free Compliance Assessment Tool developed by Asmark for retailers to quickly self-assess their compliance with existing regulations.