The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) are announcing plans to create ResponsibleAg, an independent, not-for-profit organization designed to support fertilizer retailers’ compliance with federal safety and security regulations.
An announcement was made at a March 6 Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing by Crop Production Services’ Senior Director of Environment, Health and Safety Billy Pirkle, who also announced publication of “Safety and Security Guidelines for the Storage and Transportation of Fertilizer Grade Ammonium Nitrate at Fertilizer Retail Facilities,” a new publication developed by TFI and ARA for use by the industry and first responders.
During the EPW hearing, Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) voiced strong support for ResponsibleAg and praised the industry for taking voluntary action.
Under ResponsibleAg, retail fertilizer dealerships will have access to comprehensive inspections based on federal regulatory requirements. The inspections will be carried out by trained auditors who will have successfully completed an intensive training course based on the objectives of ResponsibleAg.
“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,” said TFI President Chris Jahn. “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.”
“ResponsibleAg will help ensure existing regulations are conveyed and easily understood by fertilizer retailers,” said ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock. “Retailers want to do the right thing, but overlapping, duplicative or potentially conflicting requirements make compliance a challenge. 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.”
ResponsibleAg will credential auditors who will inspect and verify individual facilities’ level of compliance with applicable federal regulations. Facilities that successfully complete assessments will be recognized for having done so. Any site that does not successfully complete an assessment will be provided a list of recommended corrective actions. Additionally, random quality assurance reviews to verify the assessments will be conducted by third party auditors.
TFI and ARA are each contributing $100,000 in startup capital for the organization, and the Asmark Institute is providing an ongoing contribution that provides for training programs, training facilities and administration of the ResponsibleAg website and database. Once established, ResponsibleAg will be funded by registration fees paid by participating fertilizer storage and handling inventory points and their suppliers. Auditor training costs will be funded by tuition paid by those seeking the ResponsibleAg auditor credential. Membership in TFI, ARA or any other organization is not a requirement for participation.
ARA and TFI will nominate a nine person board of directors which will be filled from a cross section representing the entire fertilizer distribution network. Once the board of directors has been seated, it will adopt ResponsibleAg bylaws, create an annual operating budget and appoint a business manager to oversee day-to-day operations. When the initial board of directors’ term has expired, subsequent directors will be nominated from ResponsibleAg participating organizations.
As earlier noted, TFI and ARA also has developed the publication “Safety and Security Guidelines for the Storage and Transportation of Fertilizer Grade Ammonium Nitrate at Fertilizer Retail Facilities.” The guidance, which was compiled by a panel of technical experts from the associations, fills an existing void in emergency response guidance by providing recommendations that are specific to ammonium nitrate when it is stored and transported by a retail fertilizer facility.