The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) recognized Ford B. West, former president of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), with its Jack Eberspacher Lifetime Achievement Award.
ARA President and Chief Executive Officer Daren Coppock presented the award to Mr. West during the association's Annual Conference on Wednesday, December 4.
The award is ARA's highest individual honor, designed to recognize career-spanning achievements in and contributions to the agricultural retail industry. It was named after Jack Eberspacher, who served as ARA president and chief executive officer from 2001 until his death in 2009. Past recipients include Jim Thrift, former vice president of regulatory affairs and corporate relations for ARA; Bill Griffith, founder of AgriCenter; and Al McQuinn, founder, former chairman and chief executive officer of Ag-Chem Equipment Co.
"Jack was dedicated to ARA and the success of this industry," West said. "I'm proud to be recognized with an award named in his honor."
West, who recently retired from a 30-year career with TFI, was honored for his leadership and support on fertilizer issues and his efforts in building a strong collaborative relationship with ARA.
"I've enjoyed a great career," he said in comments to the general session during the ARA Annual Conference. "The last few years have been challenging, but a great time to be involved in agriculture."
Most recently TFI and ARA have worked collaboratively on a joint proposal to create ResponsibleAg, an industry-led effort to improve safety and regulatory compliance surrounding chemical storage.
"Ford exemplifies the characteristics ARA is seeking to recognize with the Jack Eberspacher Lifetime Achievement award," said Coppock. "His steady hand in the industry's response to the tragedy at the West Fertilizer plant in West, Texas, epitomized his leadership and commitment to this industry. His lifetime of contributions to the fertilizer industry and agricultural retail sector make him a deserving recipient of this award."
West directed TFI's response to the West Fertilizer accident, which was both sympathetic to a community devastated by a tragic accident and blunt with industry leaders.
"He sure didn't sugarcoat things in talking to FFAA leaders up in Washington, D.C., for Capitol Hill visits in May," said Mary Hartney, president of the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association (FFAA) upon West's retirement. "He said: 'If you can't afford to be safe and in complete regulatory compliance, you don't need to be in business.'"
"Sometimes we think of ourselves as competitors," West said about the relationship between retailers and the fertilizer suppliers. "But we are all in this together. Our work together means greater efficiencies for you and for our industry."