West Fertilizer Disaster: Employing The Lessons Learned
Arguably, nobody in agriculture fielded more calls from retailers and the media in the wake of the West Fertilizer disaster than Allen Summers, president of the Asmark Institute. That’s what happens when you’ve seen virtually everything that can be seen in ag retail, and channel that knowledge and experience toward helping retailers understand and manage the myriad regulations and best practices that help protect our communities and businesses. After the initial tidal wave of calls began to subside (“I was on the phone non-stop for days … I was even getting calls in the evening at home,” says Summers), he shared some of his thoughts on the whole experience.
Q. What’s been your take on the coverage of the disaster? Allen Summers: It’s been interesting that ammonium nitrate is not taking a hit so much as the entire fertilizer industry. A preception has developed of the loose network of regulatory requirements that make it appear that there was very little oversight of the plant. And the other thing that’s confusing the issue is the notion that there are outliers in the industry, businesses operating off the grid so to speak, and that West was an outlier. When you ask someone, “who do you consider an outlier?” they will tell you that it is somebody that is not a member of the national or state association. They will say that it’s some “tin shed” trying to get around the rules. That does not describe the West Fertilizer facility — it was a member of the state association. And while they did not have a spotless record of compliance, it was a farmer that bought the facility in 2004 and he had some catching up to do.
Read the rest of this CropLife Magazine article.
US. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Preliminary Findings on West Fertilizer Explosion
Read the findings.
MAWRC Comments on the MCPA’s Report and Media Stories Reporting on the Report
MAWRC Executive Director’s comments about the MPCA report and news stories putting the reports findings and the media coverage of the report in context:
1. Based on our recent experience with MPCA, it could have been worse.
2. The media players assumed their usual role- specifically those who have been rather anti-ag continue to be so, likewise for the more moderate voices.
3. All Minnesotans have work to do relative to nitrates in surface water. More on that later.
4. Farmers specifically have some work to do relative to nitrates in surface water. More on that later too.
5. The media is no place to hold a conductive discussion.
Click here to read the rest of the comments.
MDA Anhydrous Ammonia Informational “Tips from the Field” and Storage Tank and Equipment Checklists
Tips from the field 2012
NH3 Equipment Checklist
NH3 Storage Checklist
Agricultural Fertilizer Research & Education Council (AFREC)
In 2007, the Minnesota Legislature established the Minnesota Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Program for the purpose of directing fertilizer research and outreach programs. The enabling legislation establishing the governing Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC) is Minnesota Statutes 18C.70 and 18C.71. The Minnesota Legislature established the funding mechanisms by raising the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) fertilizer tonnage fees from 30 cents/ton to 70 cents/ton starting July 1, 2009. Each year MDA announces a Request for Proposals (RFP) for projects using funds ($800,000, the upper annual limit set by the legislature) generated by fertilizer sales.
Visit the AFREC webpage for more information.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Expects to Develop A Minnesota Specific Aquatic Life Nitrate Toxicity Standard by 2015
What the Ag Press have Reported about the West, Texas Explosion - “Texas Fertilizer Company Didn't Heed Disclosure Rules”
The fertilizer plant that exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Yet a person familiar with DHS operations said the company that owns the plant, West Fertilizer, did not tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principal regulators of ammonium nitrate - which can also be used in bomb making - unaware of any danger there. Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb (180 kg) or more of the substance. Filings this year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which weren't shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year. A U.S. congressman and several safety experts called into question on Friday whether incomplete disclosure or regulatory gridlock may have contributed to the disaster.
"It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid," Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. "This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up." Company officials did not return repeated calls seeking comment on its handling of chemicals and reporting practices. Late on Friday, plant owner Donald Adair released a general statement expressing sorrow over the incident but saying West Fertilizer would have little further comment while it cooperated with investigators to try to determine what happened. "This tragedy will continue to hurt deeply for generations to come," Adair said in the statement. Failure to report significant volumes of hazardous chemicals at a site can lead the DHS to fine or shut down fertilizer operations, a person familiar with the agency's monitoring regime said. Though the DHS has the authority to carry out spot inspections at facilities, it has a small budget for that and only a "small number" of field auditors, the person said. Firms are responsible for self reporting the volumes of ammonium nitrate and other volatile chemicals they hold to the DHS, which then helps measure plant risks and devise security and safety plans based on them. Since the agency never received any so-called top-screen report from West Fertilizer, the facility was not regulated or monitored by the DHS under its CFAT standards, largely designed to prevent sabotage of sites and to keep chemicals from falling into criminal hands. (Ag Professional)
Transcript/notes by TFI staff on the May 1, 2013 Hearing on the West, Texas Accident by the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety.
Read the notes here.
Information in Response to the Texas Facility Incident from The Fertilizer Institute (TFI).
The Fertilizer Institute Fact Sheet
TFI Semiannual Production Survey (July – December 2012)
The Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC)
The Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC) has funded nearly $500,000 worth of contemporary production ag research aimed at providing crop advisors with answers to vexing issues and crop improvement questions. Click here to review the research and recent updates.
Your Help is Needed Now to get Fertilizer to Minnesota – Mississippi/Missouri Rivers Low Water!
Read the Memorandum from The Fertilizer Institute
4R Nutrient Stewardship
The Fertilizer Institute President, Ford West's Key Note Address.
View The Fertilizer Institute President, Ford West's 25 minute key note address at the December 2010 CPM Short Course and MCPR Trade Show in which he introduces the Fertilizer 4 R’s…the Right Product at the Right Time at the Right Place at the Right Amount. Ford suggested that conforming to this system is the biggest challenge MCPR members face for the next ten years.
Fertilizer is Life’s Main Ingredient Campaign
Read the press release for "Fertilizer is Life's Main Ingredient Campaign" from the Nutrients for Life Foundation.
Having trouble explaining the fertilizer pricing system? Customers asking why the prices keep going up?
Click here for a TFI brochure for your information and downloading.
View an article from the New York Times showcasing the benefits of fertilizer.
MCPR is pleased because the article reveals the vital role that fertilizer plays in improving and sustaining the world’s food supply. In addition, the article points to commercial fertilizers as one of the most effective solutions in solving the current global food crisis. Congratulations to TFI who had a significant role informing the authors of the facts.
Liquid Bulk Fertilizer Storage Issue
MCPR members may have questions about recent legislative changes related to customers storing on their farm liquid bulk fertilizer. MCPR is providing this statement that will give guidance reflecting the recently passed legislation and may suffice until the MDA provides us with a guidance document with more details. “The 2007 legislature amended “Sec. 28. Minnesota Statutes 2006, section 18C.305, by adding a subdivision to read: Subd. 3. Exemption. A permit and safeguard is not required for agricultural commodity producers who store, on their own property, for their own use, no more than 6,000 gallons of liquid commercial fertilizer.” Therefore, MCPR members should understand that a permit is not required and bulk fertilizer containment rules do not apply to agricultural commodity producers who store on their own property for their own use no more than 6,000 gallons of liquid commercial fertilizer. As always, use discretion related to the storage containers you fill.
Sample letter to members regarding on farm dry fertilizer storage.
Memo to distributors and wholesalers related to on farm dry fertilizer storage.
MDA fertilizer/pesticide bulk storage permitting requirements
Download the MDA fertilizer/pesticide bulk storage permitting requirements.
Wholesalers/distributors can be liable for illegal storage and possible environmental damage for on farm bulk fertilizer storage. For further information on your possible liability please contact the MDA by calling(651) 201-6472 .
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