Every initiative The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) undertakes is designed to benefit the agriculture community and provides it the tools necessary to produce bountiful crops to feed a growing nation and world. Fertilizer is a precious resource that plays a critical role in world food production. Throughout all of its programs, TFI remains focused on sharing the big picture story — fertilizer as a strategic commodity — while continuously emphasizing its greater role in contributing to world food production. During the first year of the 111th Congress, TFI was busy representing the industry on numerous legislative and regulatory issues of importance to the industry, such as climate change and security.
On June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2998) by a vote of 219 to 212. Within a few months, the Senate had followed suit and its Environment and Public Works Committee favorably reported the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), the first step in the Senate toward enacting climate change legislation.
Throughout the year, TFI walked the halls of Congress and testified on several occasions to emphasize that, as written, these bills will render the U.S. nitrogen industry uncompetitive against nations without climate policies and threaten to force fertilizer production overseas to countries that do not regulate emissions resulting in a loss both for the economy and for the cause of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
“We believe that these bills may result in fuel switching, which has the potential to drive up the price of natural gas,” says TFI President Ford West. “Every $3 increase in the price of natural gas adds more than $1 billion to the cost of nitrogen production.”
TFI also believes that U.S. growers can play an important role in the reduction of climate change related emissions. Nevertheless, H.R. 2998 lists several agricultural practices to avoid or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that reflect a lack of understanding of the science behind the nitrogen cycle and the essential role of plant nutrients in food production. “TFI was pleased to see that agricultural offset language (S. 2729) introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and six democrat co-sponsors uses science-based recommendations to promote best management practices for the application of fertilizer inputs.”
TFI continues to work with members of the Senate to promote legislative language that implements a climate change policy which preserves the United States’ ability to compete in a global marketplace while reducing GHG emissions to protect the environment.
In lieu of Congress taking action on climate change, EPA in December announced its proposed endangerment finding for GHGs, which seeks to provide EPA with the authority to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). This proposed regulation could have serious implications for the agricultural sector and will be closely monitored by TFI.
While the Senate approved legislation to extend by one year the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) authority to regulate chemical facilities, the House considered legislation to expand legislative language to include a mandate for inherently safer technology (IST), an engineering process which evaluates all systems within an operation to determine if there could be a “safer” technology used, whether a part, valve, motor or even a product used. The Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Act of 2009 (H.R. 2868) was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 230 to 193.
TFI registered its opposition to the provision noting that if the IST mandate and assessments as contained in this legislation are made law, they could well jeopardize the availability of widely used, lower-cost sources of essential plant nutrient products used by America’s farmers and ranchers.
“The fertilizer industry considers homeland security to be a top priority and has a long-standing record of promoting safety and security of its products through their production, storage, transport and use,” says West. “We don’t have to trade food security for chemical security and TFI is optimistic that we can work with members of the Senate to craft chemical security legislation that takes into account our nation’s food production system.”
A bill similar to the House passed version is currently being drafted in the Senate by members of the Homeland Security Committee, who will most likely have primary jurisdiction of the legislation.