As agricultural professionals, we understand the importance and necessity of fertilizers and crop protection products for producing a safe, affordable and bountiful food supply. However, just like anything else, when agricultural chemical products like ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia are used in inappropriate ways, they can be extremely harmful. That is why product and facility security should be part of the every day agribusiness culture, no matter the media coverage or the Homeland Security Advisory level.

Ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia are valuable tools for high yield production agriculture with unique attributes that affect the agronomic performance of farmers. Led by the Fertilizer Institute (TFI), industry associations including WPHA have worked closely with the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Coast Guard and other agencies to develop and implement security measures relating to these important products. Furthermore, TFI and WPHA support the continued review of additional security controls to keep these products available for legitimate agricultural purposes and to protect the public from misuse.

All facilities handling these fertilizer and crop protection products should have security plans and keep records of all sales. A number of different programs, including TFI's Be Secure for America program and Project Safe and Secure www.tfi.org/publications/be%20secure.asp and Guidelines to Help Ensure a Secure Agribusiness, a combined effort of the Agricultural Retailers Association, CropLife America and TFI http://www.aradc.org/secureagribusinessguidelines.pdf, outline some basic steps to ensure facility security, including:

Basic steps for security

  • Use locks to limit access to storage areas and control possession of keys. Ensure locks are tamper-resistant and are in working condition. Case hardened locks and chains are recommended.

  • Detach hoses from unattended nurse tanks and store nurse tanks in high traffic areas illuminated by motion sensor lights.

  • Recommend that farmers inspect and record the condition of nurse tanks upon delivery and again after use in the field.

  • Have an emergency response plan. Make sure fire department and local law enforcement agencies are familiar with the facility operation so that they can respond more effectively in the event of an emergency or to report suspicious activities.

  • Conduct inventory regularly in order to recognize more quickly if a theft has occurred.

  • Secure rail, truck, and barge containers with cable seal locks when stored at the retail location.

    The TFI programs also include tips for identifying possible security problems related to ammonium nitrates. Agricultural workers are encouraged to report the following conditions to a supervisor or the TFI hotline, 1-800-800-3855

  • Presence of a stranger unfamiliar to area or to the facility.

  • A customer who doesn't know much about farming/fertilizer, who can't answer questions about acreage, crops, soil composition, etc. in a specific, knowledgeable way.

  • Someone who is insistent about ammonium nitrate and will not consider other recommended products.

  • Anyone who does not want product delivered- insists on taking product now and asks for it in bags, not bulk.

If someone seems out of place, jot down some notes on a piece of paper:

  • Note their physical appearance.

  • Note the make, model, and color of their vehicle.

  • Note the license plate number.

  • Save any paper on which they may have written a name or address, minimize handling to help preserve it for fingerprints.

It is also a good time to consider the Security Vulnerability Assessment offered by the Agribusiness Working Group's assessment tool for retailers. By working together and being aware and secure for America, we are policing our own industry and keeping these important materials available to farmers. For more information, please contact Steve Beckley, president and CEO of Western Plant Health Association at steveb@healthyplants.org.