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 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsCHS Insurance Names New Director Of Sales
April 17, 2015
Bryan Lewis has been named director of sales for CHS Insurance, the nation’s largest agribusiness insurance broker and full-service insurance Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesGenetic Literacy Project: There’s No Such Thing A…
April 17, 2015
Read the latest “analysis” on GMOs from Consumer Reports and you’ll “learn” that glyphosate, the chemical developed by Monsanto (its Read More
HerbicidesNew Resistance To 2,4-D Discovered In Australia
April 17, 2015
In a world-first case of herbicide resistance, researchers have confirmed that sowthistle weed in the south east of South Australia Read More
ManagementNews From RTP Company Visits and Growers Buying Older S…
April 16, 2015
Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss recent trips to the Research Triangle Park area and market seed sales trends. Read More
soybean field
StewardshipNew ASABE Standard Establishes Framework For Sustainabl…
April 16, 2015
The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) has initiated a project to develop a new standard to establish Read More
MicronutrientsSouthern States: An Inside Look At Our Tissue Sampling …
April 15, 2015
Remember learning about the food pyramid in school? The nutritional diagram recommends the proper amount of nutrients you need on Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds New U.S. Fungicides Marketing Manager
April 15, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently hired Deneen Sebastian as its Marketing Manager for U.S. Row Crops, Fungicides. Most recently, Sebastian Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Launches Phosphite-Based Cereal Fungicide
April 14, 2015
A new, phosphite-based fungicide designed for improved suppression of deoxynivalenol (DON) in wheat and barley infected by Fusarium head blight Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesSURVEY: Close To 90% Of Growers Battle Weed Resistance
April 14, 2015
Herbicide resistance management continues to be a priority for corn and soybean growers, and they’re working together more effectively to Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
StewardshipFMC Corp. Joins Sustainable Agriculture Alliance
April 14, 2015
FMC Corp. has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a multi-stakeholder initiative working to define, measure and Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds Two To Goëmar Sales Team
April 14, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced two new additions to the Goëmar sales team: Steve Kelly, Technical Service Manager – Read More
Valley Variable Rate Irrigation
Precision AgVariable Rate Irrigation Gains Followers
April 14, 2015
Irrigation systems have had the ability to apply different amounts of water throughout a field for decades, using timers that Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Gr…
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsThree Ag Co-ops Poised For Possible Merger
April 13, 2015
Following months of study and preparations, the Board of Directors for United Farmers Coop (UFC), Farmers Elevator Cooperative (FEC) and Read More
Eric SfiligojAgriculture Braces For More Belt-Tightening
April 13, 2015
Spring is in full bloom across the U.S. and ag retailers and their grower-customers are busily getting into high gear. Read More
ManagementPollinator Health and Washington, DC
April 9, 2015
CropLife America’s Kellie Bray speaks with CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj regarding bee health and proposed Beltway regulations. Read More
InsecticidesValent Takes On MGK Insecticide Portfolio
April 9, 2015
As of April 1, Valent U.S.A. Corp. became the exclusive provider of the MGK crop protection line of insect control Read More