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

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
Matt Hopkins5 Misguided Reasons Why Ag Retailers Are Not Using Social Media
June 2, 2014
These most commonly cited reasons for not embracing social media need to be re-examined. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

StewardshipMonsanto Joins Panel Of Innovators To Advance Research …
July 30, 2014
Monsanto Co. and The Climate Corp., its division, recently joined a roundtable of experts at the White House to share ideas and research approaches to help the world’s farmers manage and adapt to the impact of climate change on the global food supply. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Checkoff Produces Big ROI
July 30, 2014
Under the soy checkoff program, all U.S. soybean farmers contribute a small percentage of their gross soybean sales for research and marketing projects that maximize their profit potential. Read More
CropLife 100Learfield Sports, CHS Agree To Football-Centric, Colleg…
July 30, 2014
CHS Inc. will embark on a highly integrated collegiate sports sponsorship platform with 24 Division I universities in 19 states designed to reach the farmer-owned cooperative's rural owners and customers. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Forms New Organizational Structure For Its…
July 30, 2014
The new structure will provide more responsive internal support and will allow regional vice presidents and area managers to spend more time with customers, on talent development and on operational excellence across branches. Read More
Palmer pigweed in cotton
HerbicidesNew Training Modules On Herbicide Resistance Now Availa…
July 30, 2014
The Weed Science Society of America has announced the availability of three new education modules on herbicide resistance in weeds. Read More
HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More