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

Sulfur Deficiency In Corn
Crop InputsManaging Sulfur Deficiency In Corn
January 6, 2017
Corn sulfur (S) deficiency is a growing problem in and across North Dakota, according to an article on the NDSU Read More
AFS Seed Retailer and Grower
Crop InputsThis Is Not Your Father’s World Of Nitrogen Management
January 6, 2017
Many of us older citizens can remember times when our fathers toiled day and night, to coax meager crop yields Read More
Young Corn Field
FertilizerPotassium Needs More Attention In Crop Nutrition
January 6, 2017
It’s well understood that plants require the right combination of the 14 essential mineral nutrients to sustain their growth, writes Read More
FertilizerSulfur: The 4th Major Nutrient
January 6, 2017
Sulfur is an essential nutrient in crop production. It is classified as a secondary element, along with Mg and Ca, Read More
Trending Articles
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
Latest News
Doyle - porthole 1
TendersCompetition Spurs Innovation For Fertilizer And Seed Te…
January 24, 2017
As one manufacturer graciously put it, tenders are a “mature market” now. That is to say, there are more companies Read More
Scott Stewart, University of Tennessee
InsecticidesInsecticides: How To Win With A Smaller Arsenal
January 24, 2017
There’s no way around it: Loss is a central theme this year in dealing with insect pressure in the U.S. Read More
Eric SfiligojNo Alternative Facts: Dicamba Cropping System Applicato…
January 23, 2017
During President Donald Trump’s inauguration, much fuss was made over the use of the term “alternative facts” vs. some of Read More
Young Corn Plants
ManagementTimac Agro USA Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
January 20, 2017
Timac Agro USA, an agriculture supply company specializing in high-efficiency plant and animal nutrition products, has acquired St. Louis,MI-based A&E Ag, Read More
Soybean field
Crop InputsNufarm Teams Up With John Deere Financial
January 19, 2017
Nufarm and John Deere Financial have teamed up to help farmers grow a better tomorrow. This program helps make purchases Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
ManagementPresident Trump, Wisconsin Review, and a Dow-DuPont Upd…
January 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj reflect on a new administration, a recent winter show, and crop protection company mergers. Read More
Industry NewsBayer, MS Technologies Get China Approval For Balance G…
January 18, 2017
MS Technologies and Bayer have received import approval from China for Balance GT soybeans. The new Balance GT Soybean Performance Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump…
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesStudy: Focusing On Weed Seedbank Can Help Manage Herbic…
January 18, 2017
Researchers writing in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science provide important insights on the control of herbicide-resistant giant Read More
Management3 Financial Trends To Watch In Agriculture
January 17, 2017
I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of credit managers for Midwest ag supply and input companies, in part Read More
Andersons Retail Store
CropLife 100The Andersons To Close All Retail Stores; Shutdown Does…
January 16, 2017
In a stunning announcement to the Toledo area, The Andersons Inc. said on Sunday that it would close its two Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 16, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Corn
Eric SfiligojThe Mood From Madison? In A Holding Pattern
January 16, 2017
Last week, I had the chance to attend the annual Wisconsin AgriBusiness Classic show in Madison, WI. It’s been a Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsAccenture Helps Syngenta Transform Its Global Logistics
January 13, 2017
Syngenta, a leading agriculture company, has collaborated with Accenture to design and implement a new digital logistics operating model across Read More
Fall Creek Seth Harden The Nature Conservancy
StewardshipLocal Farmers’ Watershed Initiative: Continuous Improve…
January 13, 2017
The goal in the Big Pine Watershed Project is to more intentionally do what local farmers and responsible ag retailers Read More
HerbicidesEPA Expands Enlist Duo Herbicide Registration To 34 Sta…
January 13, 2017
The U.S. EPA has expanded the geography for application of Enlist Duo herbicide from 15 to 34 states. This means Read More
Olson Ag Enterprise
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Nebraska Seed Retailer
January 13, 2017
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More