Agricultural Retailers Association members should be extremely glad that urea was not included in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) list of chemicals of concern, commonly referred to as Appendix A, says Richard Gupton, ARA vice president of public policy and counsel.

"ARA staff visited with White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) officials and Vice President Dick Cheney's staff in September to urge removal of urea from Appendix A. We also communicated ARA views to DHS officials at every opportunity, and lead a grassroots effort during the public comment period," Gupton notes.

"It's rewarding to see our efforts on such a high-profile, important issue swing in our members' favor," he says.



Agricultural Business Security Tax Credit
The current hot issue that is front and center at the moment and will receive action in the very near future is the Agricultural Business Security Tax Credit (ABSTC) in the Heartland, Habitat, Harvest and Horticulture Act of 2007 (4-H). Gupton had a major hand in writing the legislation working with Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kan.) staff. Roberts is the lead sponsor of the amendment.

Present law does not provide a credit for agricultural business security. This proposal would allow a retailer of agricultural products and chemicals or a manufacturer, formulator or distributor of certain pesticides a business tax credit for 30 percent of cost for the protection of such chemicals or pesticides and various related costs.

"With the issuance of new Department of Homeland Security regulations and the importance of securing agricultural fertilizers and pesticides storage facilities, this much-needed tax credit will assist our industry with implementation costs to improve security," says Jack Eberspacher.

Discussion around the farm bill has been about the number of attachments that have been proposed for consideration in conference committee. The ABSTC has not come up as a concern but other taxes, credits and revenue proposals in the 4-H have come under serious scrutiny, according to Gupton.



Comments for Response to EPA
ARA is also seeking the help of its members to provide comments about specific aspects of the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations. ARA needs to provide comments on the modifications of the SPCC to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by early December. Comments need to be directed to Jim Thrift, ARA vice president of regulatory policy and corporate relations, by November 21 so that ARA has ammunition in going to EPA. His contact information is (202) 457-0257 or jthrift@aradc.org.

EPA has proposed modifications to the SPCC rule to increase clarity and tailor certain requirements, as they apply to farmers, for easier and increased compliance. Some of the proposed modifications may affect retailers if comments are not directed to the EPA, Thrift explains.

For more information about the EPA Oil Program and the SPCC regulations, follow this link. Specific proposed modifications on the following issues have been identified by ARA staff and the ARA Policy Committee.



Issues for Comment
1) Pesticide Application Equipment: The EPA is proposing to exempt all pesticide application equipment and related mix containers used on farms. This equipment would include ground boom applicators, airblast sprayers, and specialty aircraft that are used to apply measured quantities of pesticides to crops and/or soils. Equipment and mix containers may currently be subject to the SPCC rule when crop oil or adjuvant oil are added to formulations. EPA officials believe that since pesticides are regulated under FIFRA; additional regulation of pesticide containers and application equipment under the SPCC rule is not necessary.



ARA Policy Committee Recommendation: All Pesticide application equipment used at farms and related mixing containers should be exempt regardless of ownership or where they are stored.

2) Exempt Farms Below a Certain Storage Capacity Threshold: The EPA considered exempting farms that stored oil below a certain storage capacity threshold from the SPCC requirements, but determined that sufficient data to support such an exemption exclusive to farms do not currently exist. Storage tanks found at farms are similar in function and design found at other types of facilities, and it was determined by EPA that a similar potential for a discharge exists. EPA is seeking comments on this or other alternatives that could serve to address the agricultural sector while at the same time maintaining appropriate environmental protection. Any alternative approaches must include an appropriate rationale and supporting data.



ARA Policy Committee Recommendation: Any additional regulatory relief from SPCC rules provided to farms should also include agricultural retailers as they pose similar or lower risk. Both types of facilities are seasonal in nature.

3) Tier 1 Facilities: The EPA is proposing to streamline and tailor the SPCC requirements for a subset of "qualified facilities", in Tier 1 facilities. This proposal would provide an option to complete a self-certified SPCC Plan template in lieu of a full SPCC Plan. This Template is designed to be a simple SPCC Plan. To view the EPA's proposed template, click here.



EPA defines Tier 1 facilities as:



a) 10,000 gallons or less in aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity.
b) For the 3 years prior to Plan certification, or since becoming subject to the rule if it has operated for less than 3 years, the facility must not have had: A single discharge of oil to navigable waters exceeding 1,000 U.S. gallons, or Two discharges of oil to navigable waters each exceeding 42 U.S. gallons within any 12-month period.
c) Maximum individual oil storage container capacity of 5,000 U.S. gallons.



ARA Policy Committee Recommendation: Support EPA's proposed Tier 1 SPCC Plan Template for use by all Tier 1 qualified facilities locations (i.e., with no individual oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons up to an aggregate of 10,000 gallons). The template is attached to the SPCC proposed modifications under Appendix G.

4) Definition of a "Facility": The EPA is proposing to modify the definition of "facility" to clarify that contiguous or non-contiguous buildings, properties, parcels, leases, structures, installations, pipes, or pipelines may be considered separate facilities. This would allow an owner or operator to separate or aggregate containers to determine the facility boundaries, based on such factors as ownership or operation of the buildings, structures, containers, and equipment on the site, the activities being conducted, property boundaries and other relevant considerations.



ARA Policy Committee Recommendation: Support EPA's proposed revision to the definition of a "facility".

5) Mobile Refuelers: EPA is proposing the definition of mobile refueler to include fuel nurse tanks because a fuel nurse tank is often mounted on a trailer for transport around the farm. This doesn't affect retailers but some farms use fuel tanks mounted on trailers to re-fuel farm equipment in fields.



ARA Policy Committee Recommendation: Support EPA's proposal under the mobile refueler definition.

6) Exempt Loading/Unloading Racks on Farms: EPA is proposing to exempt Loading / unloading racks on farms. EPA believes loading racks are generally not found at farms and are already covered by existing federal and state regulations.



ARA Policy Committee Recommendation: Support EPA's proposal.

7) Exempt Residential Heating Oil Containers: EPA is proposing to exempt any residential heating oil containers from the SPCC program. The exemption would apply to aboveground containers, as well as completely buried heating oil tanks at single-family residences, including those located at farms. EPA considers a common size for a residential heating oil containers to have an aggregate storage capacity of 1,320 gallons.



ARA Policy Committee Recommendation: Support EPA's proposed exemption.

8) Permanently Closed Oil Storage Containers: Currently EPA's SPCC rule exempts from applicability and from capacity threshold determinations any oil storage container that is permanently closed. For a container to be considered permanently closed, all liquid and sludge must be removed from the container and connecting lines, all connecting lines and piping must be disconnected from the container and blanked off, all valves (except ventilation valves) must be closed and locked, and conspicuous signs must be posted to the container stating that is a permanently closed container and noting the date of closure. Permanently closed containers are not required to be removed from a facility and may be brought back into use as needed for variations in production rates and economic conditions.



ARA Policy Committee Recommendation: Support EPA's position on permanently sealed containers.

SPCC Compliance Deadlines
Currently the SPCC rule goes into effect on July 1, 2009.
For facilities (other than a farm) that started operations on or before Aug. 16, 2002, the facility must maintain its existing SPCC plan and amend and implement the plan no later than July 1, 2009.

For facilities (other than a farm) that began operations after Aug. 16, 2002 through July 1, 2009, it must prepare and implement an SPCC plan no later than July 1, 2009.



For facilities (other than a farm) that will start operations after July 1, 2009, it must prepare and implement an SPCC plan before beginning operations.