3 Steps To Safeguarding Fertilizer Sales

Security fenceJust one look is sobering. The devastating impact of war is often featured on television and in newspapers, but may not be something that we come face-to-face within our own communities. Here at The Fertilizer Insti­tute (TFI) however, we have become perhaps more familiar with the individuals whose lives have been forever changed in just a moment by the use of an improvised explosive device (IED) that is more often than not made with ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

The Department of Defense estimates that some 75% of IEDs that are used against U.S. and allied soldiers serving in Afghanistan are made with fertilizer smuggled from Pakistan into Afghanistan. This is a jarring reminder of the chance that our very beneficial product — one that provides nutrients that are necessary for human life — can also be used in a criminally destructive manner.

Recently, Lt. General Michael Barbero of the U.S. De­partment of Defense (DOD) approached TFI and the Inter­national Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) to make us aware of this matter. In our subsequent discussions with DOD, we had the opportunity to educate our military on the lessons learned during and after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing where ammonium nitrate was so tragically used.

In our discussions, we were quickly able to educate General Barbero and his staff about the necessary role of fertilizers in world food production. The appreciation they gained for the tremendous benefits of fertilizers has factored into all of our discussions since then.

Outside Of Our Control

Yet, the IED problem in Pakistan and Afghanistan are political and thus outside the fertilizer industry’s control, we were reminded of the need for continued vigilance here in the U.S. In short, the lessons of the Oklahoma City bombing, where fertilizer was used with criminal intent here in the U.S.

The simple and very common sense steps your dealership can take to secure all fertilizers are: Know your customer, protect your product and make the right call to law enforcement if you notice suspicious activity of any kind.

  1. Know Your Customer. An inquiry from new customer without knowledge of fertilizer and agriculture is cause for concern. Specifically, can he or she answer some basic questions about the intended use of the product? Your employees should be educated to ask all new customers about their farming operation; their location and what crops they are growing are good starters here. As some dealerships learned the hard way, local and even national media will from time-to-time test the system by sending a reporter to a retail facility to make a purchase. While the threat of embarrassment alone should not be the driving factor in vigilance, it can serve as a means of keeping your employees on their toes.
  2. Protecting Your Product. This is the next important step in keeping your fertilizers and other chemicals out of the wrong hands. Again, taking this step is not only easy, it’s one you are likely doing to at least some extent. Please use this note as a reminder to review your dealership’s physical security. The measures here are site-specific. Is there product that is visible to the public? If so, it should be secured. Do you have locks on your warehouses? If not, this is another easy step that can be taken.
  3. Make The Right Call. If you notice anything suspicious, you should immediately notify your local law enforcement officials. They are equipped to step in and help.

The bottom line is that although we are a world away from the troubles of war, it is incumbent on all of us to look at the steps that we can take in our own back yard to ensure that the products that farmers and ultimately consumers rely upon are kept out of the hands of those who might do us harm.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “3 Steps To Safeguarding Fertilizer Sales

  1. KEEP A WIDE FOCUS ON SECURITY OF ALL FERTILIZERS The story “Being Aware to Safeguard Lives (& Livelihoods)” by The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) in the February 2013 Edition of “CropLife” made several key recommendations for fertilizer security which should be supported. However, the article fell short of telling the whole story by singling out “ammonium nitrate fertilizer” and failing to mention that dealers should keep a wide focus on security for nitrogen-based fertilizers. As TFI asserts it is important that dealers: 1) Know your customer 2) Protect your product; and 3) Make the right call. However dealers should also be mindful of the potential for misuse of other fertilizers by manipulation as cited by law enforcement organizations in the United States. For instance the FBI has recently published a security poster alerting the agricultural industry to report any suspicious activities involving Ammonium Nitrate, Urea, Potassium Nitrate, Sodium Nitrate, Hydrogen Peroxide and other products which the FBI, DHS and other authorities may identify as security risks. These materials can be converted into homemade explosives using relatively simple equipment and techniques. Although Calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) is considered by most to be a homogeneous fertilizer mixture that is less detonable as sold, it is being manipulated for use in the majority of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan. Urea fertilizer can be manipulated with nitric acid into the explosive urea nitrate and easily transported as was the case in the first New York World Trade Center bombing in 1993, well before any ammonium nitrate sales restrictions were proposed. Other attempts have been made to smuggle urea nitrate into the United States, and the 2010 Times Square incident in New York City was an attempt to use urea in a car bomb. Although the historic argument has been made that restricting sale of nitric acid prevents illicit production of urea nitrate, research sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense has shown that producing homemade nitric acid or directly producing urea nitrate is also feasible using other commonly available materials and no advanced technical skill. In summary, dealers should keep a wide focus on security for all fertilizer activities. Phil Gough is Sr. Vice President of El Dorado Chemical Company’s Agricultural Products Division ([email protected])

Opinion Stories

Eric SfiligojThe Latest Monsanto Rumors: A Game Of Tones
July 18, 2016
When companies are engaged in the back-and-forth of the acquisition game, the tone of their various announcements is always important. Read More
Heritage Cooperative Finished Building Aerial
Eric SfiligojThe Cooperative Consolidation Crunch
July 11, 2016
One month ago on June 14, I had the opportunity to attend the official opening of a new ag retail Read More
Eric SfiligojWanted: A New Villain In Agriculture?
July 6, 2016
More than 30 years ago, I remember reading one particular comic book story that still resonates with me to this Read More
Eric SfiligojThe British Leave Vote Impact On EU Agriculture
June 27, 2016
Like virtually everyone else in the world this past week, I’ve watched the global reaction to Britain’s vote to exit Read More
Trending Articles
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Latest News
ManagementNew Rabobank Report Calls for Farmer ROI Focus
July 25, 2016
As U.S. row crop farmers brace themselves for a third year of negative margins, Rabobank believes farmers must lower the Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsBloomberg: Syngenta-Chem China Deal on Track for Regula…
July 25, 2016
Syngenta AG, which has agreed to be taken over by China National Chemical Corp. for $43 billion, said talks with Read More
ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and R…
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto: EU Approves Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Imports
July 22, 2016
Monsanto Co. announced today that the European Commission has granted import approval for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. This milestone Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Alfalfa Seed Split Off
July 22, 2016
On September 1, 2016, Syngenta will transfer sales and distribution of alfalfa seed to the NEXGROW branded business that is Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDuPont, Dow Shareholders Approve Merger
July 21, 2016
DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company announced that, at their respective special meetings of stockholders held today, stockholders of both Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Oth…
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Shareholder Proposes Monsanto ‘Host…
July 20, 2016
One of Bayer AG’s top 20 shareholders said Wednesday it may make sense for the life-science company to launch an Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Industry NewsNew Leaf Symbiotics Snags Former Monsanto Microbials Le…
July 20, 2016
NewLeaf Symbiotics, announced today the appointment of Dr. Janne Kerovuo as Vice President for Research and Discovery.  Dr. Kerovuo comes Read More
Corn and ditch
ManagementStudy: Saturated Buffers Reduce Nitrates From Subsurfac…
July 19, 2016
The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC), Agricultural Drainage Management Systems Task Force and Dr. Dan Jaynes with the National Laboratory Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentAgronomists, CCAs, Custom Applicators Invited To FSR Ag…
July 19, 2016
Agronomists, Certified Crop Advisers (CCA) and custom applicators can stay current on agronomy issues on the grounds of the Farm Read More
Soybean Field
LegislationOhio Soybean Association Names Brian Hill Legislator Of…
July 19, 2016
The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) has announced that State Representative Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) has been named one of two Legislators of Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Latest Monsanto Rumors: A Game Of Tones
July 18, 2016
When companies are engaged in the back-and-forth of the acquisition game, the tone of their various announcements is always important. Read More
Nozzle spray close-up
AdjuvantsWest Central Distribution Introduces New Elite Family O…
July 14, 2016
West Central Distribution recently released a new line of Elite adjuvants to work alongside the new herbicide technologies that combat Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsBayer Makes New Offer For Monsanto
July 14, 2016
Bayer AG boosted its takeover offer for Monsanto Co. to about $65 billion in a bid to overcome the U.S. Read More
ManagementAn Update on Water
July 14, 2016
CropLife Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matthew Grassi discuss agricultural water issues in conjunction with a recent field trip in Ohio. Read More
Co-Alliance employee
EmployeesNew Purdue Program To Focus On Talent Management
July 14, 2016
Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business is starting a new professional development program to help food and agribusiness Read More
Industry NewsFMC Agricultural Solutions Appoints New Global Regulato…
July 14, 2016
FMC Corp. has named Andy Hedgecock as Global Regulatory Affairs Director for FMC Agricultural Solutions. He joins the company this Read More