The Fertilizer Institute: New President, Renewed Energy

CropLife February 2014 Cover
CropLife February 2014 Cover

Fresh off a morning-long strategic planning meeting on a dreary January morning, Chris Jahn, recently hired president of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), already seems comfortable in his new role. Jahn took over the job from Ford West in September following West’s retirement, and his first four months have been focused on meeting members, getting up to date on key issues and working with his staff to establish priorities and a plan moving forward.

In addition to the core priorities facing the fertilizer industry, Jahn is also managing the loss of institutional knowledge at TFI with the departure of both West and Pam Guffain, who retired at the end of 2013 after 30 years as government affairs specialist. It’s a challenge, but also an opportunity to shape the staff to best address TFI’s priorities.

“We have an opportunity to reevaluate positions and priorities to make sure that we are serving our members and helping them succeed,” says Jahn. “What they need from us is probably different than three or five years ago. Reorganizing the government affairs department is first priority, and several vacancies will be filled based on the results of the strategic plan,” he says.

Jahn was a political science major in college and spent 10 years deep in the churn of Washington politics, starting as an intern and eventually serving as chief of staff for a U.S. senator. “I loved my time on the Hill, and got to do a lot of interesting things,” says Jahn. “Knowing how things get done in this town is important. Those experiences, combined with two stints in industry organizations prior to coming here, have really positioned me for this opportunity at TFI.”

“I was excited about the opportunity to make a positive difference in an industry that does so much for our country, and people around the world,” he adds. “There are a lot of different places to work in DC, but this is a place where you can feel good about the mission of the organization, and our members. All of that was important to me.”

Site Security

Last April’s disaster at the Adair Grain facility in West, TX, that killed 15 people was unfolding as Jahn was going through the interview process, so he was well aware of what one of the organization’s big challenges moving forward would be. President Barack Obama’s August 1, 2013, executive order seeking recommendations for tighter regulations on fertilizer and chemical facilities has put the issue front and center among TFI priorities in 2014.

“If you look at the executive order and all that entails from EPA, OSHA [The Occupational Safety & Health Administration], Homeland Security and USDA among others, this clearly needs to be a huge priority,” says Jahn. “There are timelines that will fall through the spring and later in the year, so it’s front and center for TFI.”

The Agricultural Retailers Association and TFI have been working diligently since last summer to develop a coordinated response to the call for additional regulatory oversight called ResponsibleAg. Jahn describes ResponsibleAg as a “voluntary industry program focused on federal compliance with the laws and regulations that are applicable to the fertilizer industry and focused on the retail segment.” The boards of both organizations were set to review the charter for this new initiative this month.

“ResponsibleAg is really all about two goals: first, ensuring that what happened to West Fertilizer never happens again, and two, highlighting the people and businesses in the industry that are doing business the right way,” explains Jahn. “This will help with the image challenges we face in the public, and will create a political response to the executive order. We are taking this on to ensure that the industry is truly doing the right things and committed to continuous improvement.

“If you look at the polling data pertaining to perception of the fertilizer industry,” he continues, “80% of the public supports additional regulation for the industry, because less than 20% think the industry is safe and secure. TFI has an obligation to educate government decision makers that this is not the case.”

A key aspect of ResponsibleAg will involve retailers undergoing voluntary third party assessments. “Assuming it is approved we will be working on a timeline to aggressively roll out the program,” says Jahn. “It has required a lot of outreach, and over the past few months we have engaged with more than 60 different stakeholders at every level of the industry, both local and national. We anticipate broad-based support.”

TFI is also reaffirming its commitment to safe operations of fertilizer facilities by endorsing the utilization of a Compliance Assistance tool for agricultural retail facilities. Developed by the non-profit Asmark Institute, retailers can download the tool and use its recommendations to help control risk and support continuous improvement.

“We have received a good response from regulators and legislators when we talk about what we have done so far,” says Jahn. “The Compliance Assistance tool has well over 1,000 downloads. And we’ll keep them posted on our progress with ResponsibleAg. We believe that being successful with this initiative will carry a lot of weight, and they’ll understand that we will be able to touch thousands of facilities faster than any government entity.”

Jahn also points out that it’s vitally important to keep the momentum going on agricultural development while the economy continues to be sluggish in so many other industry segments. At a recent site visit to a CF Industries nitrogen manufacturing plant in Louisiana, additional capacity under construction has created 1,700 contractor jobs and will increase production by 50%. Additional jobs will be added on a permanent basis when the plant comes on line.

“Agriculture continues to be a positive contributor to the U.S. economy, and we need to make sure that the government doesn’t create policy that impedes this growth,” says Jahn.

4R Continues Strong

While Jahn and his staff are still working out particulars on key agenda items for 2014 and beyond, topping the list for TFI will always be advocacy and communicating with government and the public about the benefits of fertilizer. To that end, the 4R fertilizer program has continued to grow in acceptance and understanding both inside and outside the industry.

Substantial outreach efforts to regional and local ag associations and organizations has resulted in broad use of the 4R program, an important success story given the way ag issues are evolving today.

“Just look at water quality,” notes Jahn. “It’s a complicated issue that is playing out both nationally and locally, and that’s why 4R is so important. It allows us to play in both places and make a significant contribution to the discussion. We’ve also brought in credible partners from outside fertilizer, such as the Nature Conservancy and John Deere. It speaks to the robustness of the program.”

TFI Director of Stewardship Programs Lara Moody has traveled extensively in support of 4R, and has an equally rigorous itinerary scheduled for 2014 as well.

Extending Outreach

The Nutrients For Life Foundation, the fertilizer industry’s educational non-profit that provides information and resources to educators and the public about the vital role fertilizers play in feeding our world, is getting a boost in outreach through a deal it recently signed with Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications which owns cable television’s popular Discovery Channel.

The Foundation signed a deal with Discovery that will make the Foundation’s science-based content available to thousands of educators that use the Discovery Channel resources in their teaching plans. “They are in the process of digitizing the great content we have in our curriculum,” says Jahn. “Then, they are going to be able to push that content through their network to teachers throughout the country, potentially helping us reach millions of students with our materials. It expands our reach in a way that has never happened before. It’s really an exciting opportunity.”

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
Aerial view of the West Fertilizer explosion site
FertilizerFertilizer Companies Blame City For West, TX, Explosion
August 6, 2014
El Dorado Chemical Co. and CF Industries contend the city failed to properly train the first responders and had insufficient protocols in place to battle the April 17, 2013, blaze at West Fertilizer Co. that triggered the explosion. Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute: New President, Renewed Energy
February 3, 2014
Chris Jahn relishes the opportunity to lead the organization through the challenging times ahead. Read More
FertilizerA New Cycle For Fertilizer Demand
January 2, 2014
Changes in the corn market could have a major impact on the crop nutrients sector in 2014, say experts. Read More

Top 100 Articles

CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Avoid Aphid Infestation In Winter Wheat
December 10, 2014
The best strategy for managing aphid infestations in winter wheat — and the potential yellow dwarf diseases that they transmit — is prevention, according to a South Dakota State University Plant Pathology field specialist. Read More
LegislationDufault Installed As New ARA Chair
December 10, 2014
Dave Dufault, Vice President and General Manager of J.R. Simplot Company's Retail Business, was installed as the 2015 Chairman of the Board for ARA on December 4. Read More