By Brian Reuwee
Thanks in part to a government shutdown earlier this year, Congress seems motivated to do something — as evidenced by a recent budget deal and extension of the Farm Bill. Yet, important regulatory and legislative challenges remain for agricultural retailers.
West Fertilizer Response
The regulatory fallout from the accident at West Fertilizer plant will continue to dominate public policy efforts for the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA). The retail industry’s response to the accident in West, TX, continues to develop and evolve.
Prior to the explosion in April, ARA had established a working group to develop best practices around ammonia and ammonium nitrate safety and regulatory compliance. Since the accident, ARA’s working group has grown into an industrywide initiative in partnership with The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), and is now known as ResponsibleAg.
ResponsibleAg would establish a safety management system for retailers who handle ammonia and ammonium nitrate. ARA hopes an industry-led effort will head-off potential regulation, as it has for the petroleum and chemical industries. We have been actively reaching out to members of Congress, their staff and committees of jurisdiction to educate them about the ag retail industry and products of interest.
In August, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13650: Improving Chemical Safety and Security. The order addresses enhancing communication within federal government agencies and to first responders and industry partners, along with specific regulatory proposals aimed at retail facilities and their products.
Recently, Senior Vice President of Public Policy Richard Gupton and Public Policy Counsel Michael Kennedy presented ARA’s position to a multi-agency listening session for the executive order. Gupton and Kennedy advocated for ResponsibleAg, and emphasized regulations impacting retailers need to be practical, economically feasible and not outweigh the perceived benefits.
ARA will continue to discuss alternative options with regulators, oppose duplicative regulations and ensure existing regulations are workable and easily understood by the regulated community and local first responders.
ARA has significant interest in the passage of a long-term Farm Bill. If passed, we are likely to see the preservation of a strong crop insurance program, streamlining the biotechnology review process and conservation reforms, such as reduction of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage cap changes to the Technical Service Provider (TSP) program and increased industry participation in conservation programs. ARA continues to advocate for retailers as the Farm Bill situation unfolds.
During the government shutdown, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program was not only unfunded, but had no legal power to enforce its own laws. The CFATS program, which requires chemical retailers to develop, implement and follow a specific site plan, had been attached to an appropriations bill. ARA expressed its concern and Congress has begun to draft legislation to ensure regulatory certainty for retailers.