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

Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojThe Precision Ag Revolution Continues
May 24, 2016
It’s funny how much “the first time” tends to mean to someone as they get older. I sometimes can’t recall 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
EmployeesASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour: 10 Things We Learned
May 10, 2016
In the Midwestern ag retail world, the last week of April and the first two weeks of May are akin Read More
Farmers on Tablet
Matt Hopkins6 Mobile App Trends Worth Watching In Agriculture
May 9, 2016
The agricultural industry is being transformed by the use of data. It is everywhere, and over the next several years, Read More
Trending Articles
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
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
Aerial Drone
Precision AgA Deeper Dive Into The Future Of Precision Ag
May 9, 2016
For about two decades now, through the good and the bad times, the ups and the downs inherent in agriculture, Read More
Palmer amaranth in soybean stubble
HerbicidesWSSA: Billions In Potential Economic Losses From Uncontrolled Weeds
May 4, 2016
What losses would corn and soybean growers experience if they were forced to eliminate herbicides and other control techniques from Read More
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
Latest News
Corn close up
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Establishes Global Headquarters In R…
May 25, 2016
Arysta LifeScience has announced plans to relocate its global headquarters from West Palm Beach, FL, to Cary, NC, over the Read More
fertilizer blending and storage, Top 100
BlendersCHS Dakota Expansion Features AGCO’s GSI InterSys…
May 25, 2016
The continued growth of precision agriculture has increased farmer use of customized fertilizer blends best-suited for their soil conditions. Several Read More
ManagementAgriculture 3.5: A Bumpy Road Ahead
May 24, 2016
You may have read my article a few years ago on Agriculture 3.0, which is a term I coined to Read More
Topcon’s X30 display with CropSpec sensors
EquipmentGPS Autosteer Systems: Product Updates From Precision A…
May 24, 2016
Throughout 2015 GPS Steering solutions continued to evolve from what was once an after-market add on, to today’s cab where Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojThe Precision Ag Revolution Continues
May 24, 2016
It’s funny how much “the first time” tends to mean to someone as they get older. I sometimes can’t recall Read More
Eric Wintemute, AMVAC
Precision AgAMVAC Ups The Ante With New Precision Ag Technology
May 24, 2016
A potentially industry-changing at-plant soil treatment system from American Vanguard Corp., or AMVAC, is coming soon to large growers in Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
CropLife 100CropLife 100 Map
May 24, 2016
The new CropLife 100 map shows the locations of each of the headquarters of the 2015 CropLife 100 retailers. The interactive Read More
Southern States Cooperative
Corn Field
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Names Veteran Account Manager To Lead Central…
May 23, 2016
With the continuing growth of the sulphur bentonite and precision crop nutrient industry, global agriculture firm H.J. Baker has announced that Read More
Bayer sign
Industry NewsReuters: Bayer Defies Critics With $62 Billion Monsanto…
May 23, 2016
German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion in cash, 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
Industry NewsCompass Minerals Hires Industry Veteran To Lead Plant N…
May 19, 2016
Compass Minerals has hired plant nutrition industry veteran Vatren Jurin to steer the company’s portfolio expansion into specialty liquid micronutrient Read More
ASMARK Retailers LIVE! Tour 2016 Group shot The Andersons
CropLife 100The Andersons Rejects Unsolicited Proposal From HC2
May 19, 2016
The Andersons, Inc. has announced that its Board of Directors has rejected two non-binding, highly conditional, unsolicited proposals from HC2 Read More
glyphosate
Crop InputsWHO: Glyphosate ‘Unlikely’ To Cause Cancer
May 16, 2016
Via Reuters.com reporter Kate Kelland: The weed-killing pesticide glyphosate, made by Monsanto and widely used in agriculture and by gardeners, Read More
dicamba, Roundup Ready 2 Xtend
Crop InputsASA: No Dicamba On Roundup Ready 2 Xtend In 2016
May 16, 2016
While Roundup Ready 2 Xtend (RR2X) are tolerant to dicamba and glyphosate herbicides, no dicamba herbicides will be approved for Read More
CPP, glyphosate, dicamba, atrazine,
Crop InputsReport: Congress Pressing EPA On Glyphosate Review Hand…
May 16, 2016
Via Reuters.com reporter P.J. Huffstutter: U.S. lawmakers have asked EPA to explain why it published – and then withdrew – Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
ManagementAsmark Institute Tour Observations
May 12, 2016
Special Guest CropLife Field Editor Matthew Grassi discusses his week-long visit with 45 ag retailers as part of the Asmark Read More