The Agricultural Retailers Association, through a formal letter to the chairman and the ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, expressed its support of an amendment offered by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) to the annual Department of Homeland Security (DHS) annual authorization bill (H.R. 3116). 

The House committee completed its job on Thursday when it passed out of committee by a bipartisan vote of 19 to 13 the “Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012” to authorize the DHS to carry out key functions and missions and provide DHS with the necessary tools, guidance, and direction to fulfill its responsibilities.

A modification amendment offered by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) was adopted by voice vote regarding the regulation of the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate. His amendment limits the persons required to register under the proposed DHS Ammonium Nitrate Security Program, including exempting transportation providers if DHS determines they do not pose a security threat based on existing security programs.

ARA, TFI, Institute of Makers of Explosives, and the American Trucking Associations all sent letters in support of the Thompson Ammonium Nitrate Amendment before the markup of H.R. 3116. The Thompson amendment is a way to use language in the DHS authorization bill to clarify what Congress intended in its passage of the “Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act,” suggested Richard Gupton, vice president of legislative policy and counsel, ARA.

ARA plans to send out a reminder to industry about the DHS Listening Sessions regarding its proposed ammonium nitrate security program. A list of the dates for the listening sessions is available here. Written comments need to be submitted to DHS on or before Dec. 1, 2011.

ARA thinks DHS is overstepping what Congress requested with its proposed ammonium nitrate security program rule. In a letter about the rule making of Oct. 3, Gupton explained the concern about the DHS rules/regulations going beyond what Congress had intended.

“The intent of the ‘Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act’ was to ‘create a nationwide, minimum standard for regulating the sale of ammonium nitrate based fertilizers nationwide that could be used in terrorist acts, WITHOUT unduly burdening the agricultural sector’s access to ammonium nitrate fertilizer for farming and other legitimate agricultural purposes.’ ARA believes DHS’s Ammonium Nitrate Security Program proposal, as currently written, is contrary to the legislative history of the authorizing legislation and goes well beyond the intent of Congress, particularly as it relates to the collection of information DHS is seeking from industry.”

Gupton concluded in that letter with what he hoped the DHS would do to meet what Congress initially expected.

“ARA supports a common sense, fair and simplified federal registration system for solid ammonium nitrate fertilizer in order to ensure the product’s continued availability for sale, purchase and use by America’s agricultural industry. ARA agrees with the comments submitted by The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) on October 3, 2011, regarding the collection of information. ARA strongly recommends DHS implement the AN Security Program in a manner similar as programs operating in several states such as Oklahoma and South Carolina. ARA believes minimal costs will be incurred by taxpayers or industry if the program remains streamlined and focused only on the AN facility and AN purchaser and solid ammonium nitrate fertilizer, not mixtures.”