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 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
Eric SfiligojA Whole New Precision Ag World
June 2, 2014
Excitement and technology developments could make 2014 a year to remember for precision ag. Read More

Trending Articles

ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. 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

Latest News

Crop InputsBASF Is Betting On A Bright Agricultural Future
September 1, 2014
The crop protection products giant is gearing up for a busy time in agriculture by investing in both product production and development over the next couple of years. Read More
Eric SfiligojAn Erie Feeling For Ag
September 1, 2014
Plenty of water issues have been in the news lately, including the continuing drought in California. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires California-Based Retailer
August 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings will acquire Kerman Ag Resources, Inc., which will operate under Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementArcadia Co-op To Merge With Allied Cooperative
August 28, 2014
Allied Cooperative has announced that members of Arcadia Co-op voted in favor of a merger with Allied Cooperative, paving the way for the consolidation which will be effective on December 1, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesBioinsecticide VENERATE Now Registered In California
August 27, 2014
Marrone Bio Innovations' VENERATE is a new tool to help California growers control crop-damaging insect pests, fight the development of insect resistance and reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Read More
CropLife 100Two Iowa-Based Ag Co-ops To Merge
August 27, 2014
The Board of Directors and management of United Western Coop, Missouri Valley, IA has completed a merger with Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA, effective September 1, 2014. Read More
FertilizerKoch Expands AGROTAIN Nitrogen Stabilizer Portfolio
August 26, 2014
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has added two new innovative nitrogen stabilizers to the AGROTAIN product family – AGROTAIN ADVANCED and AGROTAIN DRI-­MAXX. Read More
Seed/BiotechDuPont To Build Two Seed Treatment Centers
August 26, 2014
DuPont has announced construction on two state-of-the-art centers dedicated to developing and testing seed treatment formulations, applications and seed handling techniques in an important step toward bringing new solutions to growers. Read More
Seed/BiotechLoveland Products Acquires A Controlling Interest In Ag…
August 26, 2014
Loveland Products, a subsidiary of Agrium , has announced the company has acquired a controlling interest in Agricen, a Dallas-area agricultural biotechnology company delivering biochemical-based products for efficient and sustainable plant nutrition. Read More
StewardshipUp Close Look At The 2014 Environmental Respect Award W…
August 25, 2014
The 2014 Environmental Respect Award winners were honored recently at the 24th annual event in Wilmington, DE. Read More
Eric SfiligojAg Science Rejection Carries Consequences
August 25, 2014
As innuendo and fear dog the regulatory process, agriculture can’t get the new tools it needs to combat world hunger. Read More
LegislationFarmers Dismayed As New Farm Bill Dumps Direct Payments
August 25, 2014
The threatened end of cash subsidies to the nation’s row crop farmers dates back through at least the last two iterations of national agriculture policy legislation. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK CEO To Retire
August 22, 2014
GROWMARK chief executive officer Jeff Solberg has announced his retirement effective September 15, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesDuPont’s Prevathon Approved For Dry Beans
August 22, 2014
DuPont Prevathon insect control powered by Rynaxypyr has received EPA registration for foliar use on dry bean crops, including dried shelled peas and beans. Read More
ManagementNCGA DuPont New Leaders Program Enters Sophmore Season
August 20, 2014
The National Corn Growers Association and DuPont are pleased to announce the second year of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program. Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Links Up With Mitsui, Hokusan
August 20, 2014
Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc., and Hokusan Co., announced the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement allowing Verdesian Life Sciences global access to its patented technology for suppressing mycotoxin contamination in wheat and barley. Read More
SprayersUniversity Of Illinois Introduces New Spray App
August 18, 2014
University of Illinois Extension has released a new smartphone app for making sprayer-related calculations. Pesticide Spray Calculator, or Spray Calc, Read More