Original publish date: June 2007
Ask any ag retailer, and chances are they will tell you that their operation’s success or failure can be measured by how well the company manages its products.
“We are dealers of the products that growers need to do their jobs and make a profit,” says Dan Kennedy, general manager for Ritter Crop Services, Marked Tree, AR. “And if we don’t take the proper steps to make certain these products are protected and safe, we aren’t doing our jobs very well at all.”
Here we take a closer look at how ag retailers should manage their input offerings at their facilities, paying special attention to safety and security concerns.
1. Protect The Dry Fertilizer Area From The Elements
At many ag retailer facilities, dry fertilizer mixing is one of the primary services offered to grower-customers. According to industry insiders, following ideal safety and environmental practices means these items should be kept in a covered building to safeguard against any stray product getting into the surrounding area.
“Our fertilizer building features covered load-in and load-out areas to prevent runoff and fugitive dust emissions,” says Kennedy. “All our fertilizer is stored inside labeled bins with concrete floors.”
2. Liquid Fertilizer Needs Extra Precautions
Although dry fertilizer protection is important, ag retailers stress that protecting their liquid fertilizers has become even more important, particularly in the modern age of anhydrous ammonia (NH3) thieves and rampant methamphetamine use in parts of the countryside. For many years now, a regular part of any retailer’s security has been valve locks, fencing, and security cameras and lighting to guard against intruders looking to steal some NH3 for meth production.
However, NH3 isn’t the only consideration when it comes to liquid fertilizer security. According to Garry Rasmussen, supervisor for Simplot Grower Solutions, Berea, NE, his outlet has a liquid fertilizer off-loading pipeline located approximately 1 mile from its main holding tanks.
“To protect this pipeline from any tampering or outside interference, we have enclosed it in a locked steel cage,” says Rasmussen. “This way, the only person who can access it is someone from our facility who has the key.”
3. Safeguard Loading Areas
As for crop protection products, these need their own special handling procedures to maintain security, say experts. “Product at our facility is loaded and off-loaded in concrete docks,” says Brett Briscoe, area manager for UAP Distribution Inc., Flora, IL. “There are no drains in the docks which provide containment in the event of a spill.”
Scott Firlus, agronomy manager for Wisconsin River Agronomy, LLC, Adams, WI, says the outlet takes extra environmental steps when it comes to product off-loading and mixing. “All processing and mixing areas are situated on concrete as an impermeable surface,” says Firlus. “Although the Department of Natural Resources only requires that sump pits be inspected every five years, Wisconsin River has its pits inspected yearly to ensure that there is no leakage into the environment.”
4. Protect Waste Containers For Recycling
Even used products should be safeguarded, says Tom Zornes, office manager for The McGregor Co., Oakesdale, WA. “Our empty containers are stored in a secured ‘can cage’ after being triple-rinsed in the field,” says Zornes.