The Need For ResponsibleAg

April 17, 2013, was a day that almost no one in the U.S. fertilizer industry will forget. An accident took place at the West Fertilizer retail facility in West, TX. Soon afterward, we learned that 15 people were killed, more than 160 were injured and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Chemical Safety Board were soon on the scene in attempts to determine the cause of the explosion.

In Washington, DC, and around the country, few in the public and particularly the media were willing to wait for the official word on the reason for the blast. Here at The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), media calls, first from Good Morning America and closely followed by The Today Show began around 1:30 a.m. (and have continued to this day). Inquiries from Capitol Hill followed in short order. While we later learned that the retail facility was owned by Adair Grain Co., it was unclear who the retail facility’s ownership was and whether or not they intended to speak to the media or the West community. Given this void, it was our job to serve as the voice of the industry.

Jumping Into Action

Within days, and as the initial flurry of media calls subsided, we began to look forward and consider the future messages we should be using with reporters and Capitol Hill legislators. In short order, we decided to poll the public and determine the extent to which the West Fertilizer accident had damaged the industry’s reputation and further, what actions the industry could take to assure the public that it is safe.

The opinion poll which was conducted two weeks after the accident consisted of online interviews with almost 900 individuals in Washington and key states. Not surprisingly, awareness of the explosion was nearly universal with 93% of respondents indicating that they had read something in the media about the accident. What’s more, the poll found that almost 50% of those polled believed our facilities are currently unsafe. It also found that by a 6:1 ratio, there is support for further regulation of the industry.

Given these findings, it was clear that the fertilizer industry must take steps to re-assure the public about its safety practices if it were to re-capture its reputation. In large part because the poll told us so, we strongly believed that a new initiative aimed at retail safety was in order. In other words, communication about retailers’ compliance with existing regulations was not enough; rather we needed to prove that steps were being taken to keep employees and communities safe.

From this foundation, we joined the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) to develop a code of practice for fertilizer retailers. The code will include third-party inspections so that we will do our best to ensure the public and policymakers that retailers are in fact doing the right thing. While support for the code, which will be called ResponsibleAg, among the industry has been strong, some in the retail community have expressed reservations about its potential impact, particularly on small businesses in our industry. For this reason, I believe that it is necessary to tell readers of CropLife magazine just what the code entails as well as what it doesn’t. The code is aimed at helping retailers comply with existing regulations rather than creating a new set of standards of conduct for the nation’s retailers.

Development of the code has just started and it is gaining support from many retailers who are participating to ensure that it reflects the reality of their operations. I encourage you to stay in touch with both TFI and ARA to best understand how ResponsibleAg is being built and best understand how it can show outsiders our commitment to safety.

Leave a Reply

Opinion Stories
Eric SfiligojWar And Green Peace
October 11, 2014
A one-time member of Green Peace recently explained why he left the organization after 15 years. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More
OpinionAl In The Family (A Tribute)
July 2, 2014
After a nice 30-year run with our company, long-time Publisher Al Strohmaier officially retired on June 30. Here, we honor his time with our organization with a short tribute article written by one of his equally long-serving co-workers. Read More
Paul SchrimpfWorking With Walmart
June 2, 2014
It's critical for agriculture to have seats at the table as the mega-retailer works out its definition of sustainability. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer Warehouse
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Aligned Ag Distributors
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
CropLife 100Bozeman Named SEEDWAY Chief Operating Officer
January 16, 2015
He succeeds Donald Wertman, who will retire at the end of August 2015 after 40 years with the GROWMARK subsidiary. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis’ Craig Bair Honored For Safety Contributions To Ag Aviation
January 14, 2015
The William O. Marsh Safety Award recognizes significant achievements in safety, safety education or an outstanding operational safety program. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Gearing Up For Another NASCAR Season
January 13, 2015
BRANDT will return for its fifth year as a primary sponsor of the No. 51 driven by Justin Allgaier in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Read More
Latest News
InsecticidesBayer CropScience Introduces Sivanto Insecticide
January 26, 2015
Sivanto precisely targets key damaging pests at multiple insect life stages to prevent damage to plants and help minimize the spread of diseases from insect carriers. Read More
ManagementRetail Collaboration, Communicating Agriculture’s Good …
January 23, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the recent creation of Aligned Ag Distributors, and the US Farmers and Ranchers Read More
FertilizerOSU Expert: Toledo Water Crisis A Turning Point For Ohi…
January 23, 2015
The August 2014 water crisis in Toledo, OH, impacted Ohioans’ views of Lake Erie algae problems by increasing the attribution of blame of algae growth on agriculture. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Launching TIGER XP
January 22, 2015
Tiger-Sul introduces this next generation sulphur-bentonite product with a proprietary activator – ensuring farmers have a well-balanced nutrient replacement program. Read More
Crop InputsH.J. Baker Expands China Sales Force
January 21, 2015
Global Agricultural firm H.J. Baker announced that sales veteran Shi Dongshen has joined their Shanghai office in China. This newest hire follows the recent opening of their Lianyungang Sulphur Bentonite Plant. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer …
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
Matt Hopkins5 Bold Predictions For Ag Retail In 2015
January 21, 2015
This past year was filled with ups and downs for the nation’s top ag retailers, but what will 2015 have in store? Read More
SoftwareDeere Launches App Center
January 20, 2015
The John Deere App Center provides users the ability to search and find apps most useful to their business or operations. Read More
Crop InputsNew Syngenta Herbicide Approved In Soybeans, Sunflowers
January 20, 2015
Syngenta will sell BroadAxe XC herbicide in 2015 for use on soybeans, sunflowers and dry peas Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
Crop InputsNovozymes Sales Figures Up For 2014
January 20, 2015
Novozymes announces its sales growth in 2014 was in line with expectations as sales grew by 7% compared with 2013. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Ali…
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
Eric SfiligojGMO Or DNA? LOL Or WTF?
January 19, 2015
A new survey finds the American public seems generally confused when it comes to any three-letter descriptor for their food. Read More
FertilizerAGROTAIN Wins No-Till Product Of The Year Again
January 19, 2015
This marks the 10th straight year AGROTAIN nitrogen stabilizer has been named the top product in this category; no other product has matched this honor Read More
FertilizerTFI President To Give Update On Nutrient Management Eff…
January 19, 2015
The Fertilizer Institute President Chris Jahn will give the keynote address at the 2015 Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference February 4. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnderstanding The Role Of Seed Enhancers In Seed Treame…
January 17, 2015
Seed enhancers such as polymer play a key part in helping to improve germination, seed growth or accuracy of planting. Read More
Crop InputsUSDA Signs Off On Dicamba-Tolerant Trait In Cotton, Soy…
January 16, 2015
A registration decision by EPA for BASF's Engenia herbicide is anticipated to follow the dicamba-tolerant trait deregulation milestone. Read More
CropLife 100Bozeman Named SEEDWAY Chief Operating Officer
January 16, 2015
He succeeds Donald Wertman, who will retire at the end of August 2015 after 40 years with the GROWMARK subsidiary. Read More