Cause of West Fertilizer incident is still undetermined
Agricultural Retailers Association
May 17, 2013
At a press conference held yesterday evening by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Texas State Fire Marshal's Office, authorities reported that the cause of the fire at the West Texas Fertilizer Facility remains undetermined at this time. They did report on causes of the fire that have been eliminated and causes that have not been eliminated in their investigation. Media coverage resulting from the press conference at this point seems to be focused on the fact that criminal activity has not been ruled out as a cause of this incident. Officials emphasized the fact that the investigation is still ongoing. ARA will continue to monitor developments regarding this investigation.
Causes of the fire eliminated:
Spontaneous ignition (480 system)
Causes of the fire that have not been eliminated:
120 Volt electrical system
Golf cart (battery powered, able to cause a fire) in the seed and fertilizer building
Intentionally set fire
Note: The Texas Rangers and McLennan County Sheriff's Office last week opened a criminal investigation into the blast. So far, officials have revealed no connection between Bryce Reed's arrest and the opening of the criminal investigation. Although they are not able to rule that possibility out at this time.
Additional Notes Regarding the Facility and the Investigation
These points were also reported during yesterday's news conference.
The missing persons list from the explosion is now zero. No individuals are unaccounted for at this time.
More than 28 other agencies are also investigating the incident.
The origin of fire was determined to be in the fertilizer and seed building.
The fire sparked two explosions that were "milliseconds" apart. This was recorded by a seismograph.
As the fire caused the temperature to increase, pressure increased and the AN sensitivity to shock increased. Debris falling on the AN also could have led to explosion.
28-34 Tons of AN exploded, equivalent to 15,000 - 20,000 lbs of TNT
An additional 20-30 tons of AN was in building and did not explode.
100 tons of AN on a rail car nearby also did not explode.
It is estimated that 150 tons of AN were on site at time of incident, less than the 270 tons reported on the Tier 2 report.
Click here to read a press release issued by ATF on yesterday's press conference. A press release from the Texas State Fire Marshal's office is available here.
Opportunities to Help the Community of West, Texas
The following charities have been established to help those impacted by the terrible tragedy at the West fertilizer facility in Texas:
United Plains Ag receives Environmental Respect Award May 17, 2013
Congratulations to United Plains Ag/CHS in Quinter, for receiving the 2013 Environmental Respect Award. The Environmental Respect Award (ERA) is the agricultural industry’s highest recognition for environmental stewardship among U.S. retailers, those serving growers with agronomic information critical to effective crop production.
A panel of industry experts gathers each year to recognize achievement in environmental stewardship, professional excellence and community involvement. Winners have been chosen based on evidence of excellence in site design, in-plant storage and handling procedures, emergency preparedness and response, proper application and leadership in safety and stewardship among customers and employees.
Talking points on Texas fertilizer incident April 19, 2013
As members are aware, an unfortunate accident occurred yesterday at a West, Texas fertilizer plant. KARA’s deepest sympathies are with everyone that was impacted by this tragedy.
KARA staff was in communication yesterday with our national associations and the Board of Directors with updates on the situation. The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) have compiled a list of talking points and facts should this incident provoke media attention to the industry.
KARA will continue to monitor the situation and update members as needed.
Please feel free to direct questions and media inquiries to TFI's Vice President of Public Affairs Kathy Mathers by telephone at 202-515-2703 (office), cell (202-251-2273), or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clarifying aspects of EPA's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule and impacts on farmers and ranchers April 19, 2013
By U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks
The goal of SPCC is to prevent oil spills into waters of the United States and adjoining shorelines. These plans can help farmers prevent oil spills, which can damage water resources needed for farming operations.
We recognize that many farmers and ranchers continue to have questions about whether they will be affected and what they can do to be in compliance.
If your farm began operations after August 16, 2002 you must prepare and implement an SPCC plan which meets all of the SPCC requirements no later than May 10, 2013. If your farm was in operation before August 16, 2002, and you do not already have a plan, you need to prepare a plan that meets all of the SPCC requirements and implement the plan as soon as possible.
You may be asking, “Does this SPCC Rule impact my farm?”
If you do not store more than 1,320 gallons of oil or oil products on your farm in aboveground containers, or 42,000 gallons of oil or oil products in completely buried containers, you are not subject to the SPCC rules.
Our rule considers the storage at a facility on a tract of land. For most farms in the Midwest, there are multiple tracts of land. Facilities “farms” which potentially are subject to SPCC requirements can be subdivided by property, parcel, and lease. If the individual areas (property, parcel, lease) don’t exceed the threshold requirements, the individual areas are not subject to SPCC regulation.
We have heard that farmers are concerned that we will force compliance by not allowing local CO-OPs to deliver fuel unless the farm has an SPCC plan in place. EPA has no idea where farmers purchase their fuel and cannot enforce in that way. However, a typical enforcement would probably follow a spill if we discovered the facility did not have an SPCC plan in place or the plan was not being followed.
Can I self-certify my own plan? If your farm has a total oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 and less than 10,000 gallons in aboveground containers, and the farm has a good spill history (as described in the SPCC rule), you may prepare and self-certify your own plan. (However, if you decide to use certain alternate measures allowed by the federal SPCC Rule, you will need a professional engineer.)
If your farm has storage capacity of more than 10,000 gallons, or has had an oil spill you may need to prepare an SPCC plan certified by a professional engineer.
If you are eligible to self-certify your plan, and no aboveground container at your farm is greater than 5,000 gallons in capacity, then you may use the plan template that is available to download from EPA's website at: http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/spcc/tier1temp.htm.
Currently, EPA is prevented from enforcing the SPCC rule on farms due to modifications in the program within the continuing resolution authorizing funding for government operations until September 30, 2013.
EPA Region 7 has not conducted inspections of farms for purposes of this rule. To avoid confusion and get solid answers to any questions you might have, I strongly encourage you to contact EPA with any questions related to the SPCC rule. The EPA Region 7 contact is Mark Aaron who can be reached at 913.551.7205 or email@example.com, EPA Region 7, 11201 Renner Blvd., Lenexa, Kansas 66219.
DuPont and Monsanto reach technology licensing agreements on next-generation soybean technologies April 19, 2013
DuPont and Monsanto announced on March 26 a series of technology licensing agreements that will expand the range of seed products they can offer farmers. The agreements include a multi-year, royalty-bearing license for Monsanto’s next-generation soybean technologies in the United States and Canada.
Through these agreements, DuPont Pioneer will be able to offer Genuity® Roundup Ready 2 Yield® soybeans as early as 2014, and Genuity® Roundup Ready 2 Xtend™ glyphosate and dicamba tolerant soybeans as early as 2015, pending regulatory approvals.
DuPont Pioneer also will receive regulatory data rights for the soybean and corn traits previously licensed from Monsanto, enabling it to create a wide array of stacked trait combinations using traits or genetics from DuPont Pioneer or others. Monsanto will receive access to certain DuPont Pioneer disease resistance and corn defoliation patents. Read more.
Status Update on Federal Hours of Service (HOS) Exemption Regulations March 15, 2013
Last October, two new statutory exemptions to the federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules became effective under Sections 323101 and 32934 of the moving ahead for progress in the 21st century act (MAP-21). Section 32101 provided an exemption from HOS regulations for certain carriers transporting agricultural commodities and farm supplies. Section 32934 provided a statutory exemption from most federal regulations for the operation of covered farm vehicles by farm and ranch operators. Note: a previous 2-year exemption from federal HOS regulations for carriers transporting anhydrous ammonia will not be renewed, as it is now substantively included under Section 32101.
Association staff notified the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) at the time and petitioned the KCC to amend its regulations to reflect the new HOS exemptions under MAP-21. On Thursday, March 14, 2013, the FMCSA, under the federal department of transportation, published a final rule in the Federal Register amending the federal regulations to reflect the new, broader, HOS exemptions under MAP-21. Adoption of this final rule allows states to amend their own regulations to reflect the federal HOS exemptions under MAP-21.
Association staff was recently notified that the Kansas Attorney General's office has approved all but two of the KCC regulations concerning the MAP-21 HOS exemptions, and that this stage in the process is nearing completion. Once all of the regulations are approved, the regulations will be published in the Kansas Register for a 60-day public comment period and a public hearing.
Please note that all currently existing KCC regulations concerning HOS exemptions remain in effect until the new KCC regulations are passed.
TFI and ARA join other agricultural groups in Legal Brief filing March 15, 2013
The following memo was sent from The Fertilizer Institute to state associations on March 7:
On March 5, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), submitted a joint memorandum as intervenors in opposition to the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), et al (plaintiffs) and in support of the the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strategy to deny the GRN petition. In addition, 13 states also intervened in support of our position. The intervention of these 13 states, which came about through the encouragement of TFI, our members and other stake holders, sends a critical message to EPA that the states will not tolerate federal preemption of their water quality standards.
By way of background, TFI’s strategy on the issue of EPA’s goal to set strict numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) is three-fold. First, we are challenging this from both a scientific and regulatory perspective; as the science does not support rigid numeric limits given the unique nature of nutrients. Nutrients, unlike other pollutants, are integral and necessary within any watershed system and cannot be treated like traditional pollutants (where the closer to zero you get, the better). Second, we have successfully litigated precedent-setting cases, such as Florida, by challenging both the science and legality of EPA’s actions. Finally, we are aggressively advancing 4R nutrient stewardship as the voluntary pathway to achieve greater nutrient use efficiency at the field level.
The GRN lawsuit petitions EPA to develop NNC in the Mississippi River Basin (MRB). In our brief, we argue the EPA acted reasonably by denying the plaintiffs petition to set multi-state NNC. Specifically we argue the plaintiffs failed to show the necessity of EPA setting a multi-state NNC; that the Clean Water Act (CWA) specifically gives deference to the states in setting water quality standards; and the plaintiffs failed to show that the states in the MRB are failing to improve water quality standards.
In addition, the brief argues that not only does EPA not have a scientifically robust system to set such standards; but also that the legal underpinnings are questionable. The brief argues that EPA was correct to deny the plaintiffs petition based on 40 years of CWA precedent. The authority to set water quality standards lies almost exclusively with the states. We believe the states know their watersheds and their issues better than the EPA.
We concur with EPA that setting multi-state NNC is outside the intent of the CWA and would place an unreasonable burden (from both a time and cost perspective) on the EPA’s already limited resources; as well as resulting in costly and time-consuming litigation. We support EPA’s position that they are better served to provide technical support to states as they implement their own water quality standards.
ACRC Seeks Qualified Container Recycling Service Provider March 15, 2013
The Ag Container Recycling Council (ACRC) would like to identify any and all qualified companies interested in providing pesticide container recycling services for the period 2014-2016 in a manner that benefits both the ACRC and all program participants. To that end, the ACRC is issuing a Request for Statements of Qualifications (SOQ) from qualified companies with interest in providing pesticide container recycling services in the fifteen states currently defined as the ACRC Midwest service area beginning January 1, 2014.
If you know of any person/organization interested in providing the required services in one, some, or all of the Midwest states, please call 877 952-2272 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. SOQs are due no later than April 26, 2013.
Soil Scientist Gives Guidelines for Applying Lime to No-Till Farm Fields February 15, 2013
One thing that’s critically important to monitor in no-till farming systems is soil pH, according to Kansas State University agronomist Dave Mengel.
“The top few inches of soil may become extremely acidic due to the surface application of nitrogen fertilizer,” said Mengel, who is a soil fertility specialist with K-State Research and Extension.
When the soil pH gets too low for optimal crop production, lime must be applied to reduce the effect of toxic aluminum on plant roots, to maintain good conditions for microbial activity, and to get the best performance from some of the soil-applied herbicides, he said. Read more.
KARA thanks Chrysler for Super Bowl commercial February 15, 2013
KARA, along with other several national and state ag groups, signed on to a letter from the Animal Ag Alliance thanking Chrysler for their “And God Made a Farmer” commercial during the Super Bowl.
KARA urges our members to go to www.ramtrucks.com/en/keepplowing to watch the commercial and help the National FFA Foundation achieve its goal of a $1 million contribution from Chrysler to its “Feeding the World – Starting at Home” program.
Giving opportunity available for agriculture industry
December 17, 2012
Planting Hope International, a Manhattan, KS-based ministry, provides technology and training to improve food poduction, education, and health for families in developing countries. They are reaching out to the agriculture industry for equipment that, by our standards may be antiquated, but would be perfect for small farms trying to preserve their crop to feed their community.
The following needs have been submitted by the organization:
Ford 8N tractors in any condition, and preferably 1950 and newer
Repairable 30-100 hp diesel tractors
Metal grain bins, augers, dryers, and other grain handling equipment.
Planting Hope International is a 501(c)3 organization, so all donations are tax deductible. If your company would be interested in learning more, please visit http://www.plantinghopeinternational.org.
Fall is a good time for soil testing High Plains Journal
December 17, 2012
Fall is a good time to soil test fields that will be planted to crops next spring. So once you have the beans, milo and corn out of the fields and the wheat put in the ground, take a little time and pull some soil samples on your fields. You can also make weather-related harvest or planting delays productive by going out and pulling a soil sample or two. The soil doesn't have to be completely dry for a routine sample, but of course you have to be able to at least walk across the field.
Soil testing can also save you money. If you guess on the amount of fertilizer to apply you could be costing yourself money, especially with phosphorus and potassium applications. Under estimating what you need to apply can result in reduced yields--reducing potential income. While over estimating your needed fertilizer application simply cost you extra out-of-pocket expense in excess fertilizer. Read more.
KDA presents resolution at Annual Meeting on NH3 issues August 30, 2012
Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) Assistant Secretary Jim Reimann and General Counsel Kim Christiansen presented to KARA members on a resolution to several anhydrous ammonia tank issues. Click here to watch a video of KDA’s presentation at the 2012 KARA Annual Meeting, or click here to download their PowerPoint slides.
The following background information was written by Leslie Kaufman, President/CEO of the Kansas Cooperative Council:
After months of discussions with the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), industry working group meetings, and examining options, resolution has been reached on certain key issues related to permanent anhydrous storage tanks that are missing legible data plates or are marked less than 250 psi.
Over a year ago, KDA became aware of certain technical issues related to the continued use of some anhydrous storage tanks. Through their inspection efforts, KDA discovered a group of former rail car tanks that were converted to permanent storage and did not have legible data plates and another group of tanks that were marked with a working pressure less than 250 psi. The Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association, Kansas Cooperative Council and a joint working group of association members worked with KDA to develop processes for keeping a large number of these tanks, which have no known history of failure anywhere in the US, safely in service.
The KDA will be releasing formal information on the program soon and the KCC will forward that information on to our members once we receive it. Some details may need refining and agribusinesses should contact the KDA for more information. In general, co-ops should be able to continue using railroad cars without a legible data plate as permanent storage, that are otherwise in compliance with regulations, if: 1) the tank is marked/stamped with a working pressure of 250 or greater or has documentation that the tank was rated 250 psi or greater; and 2) the cooperative can provide evidence that the tanks have been in service and not relocated as of December 31, 1998 or earlier.
The documentation can be in the form of an affidavit from someone knowledgeable regarding the tank placement such as a key employee or member, including a retiree. Photographs of tank markings should be submitted to KDA, along with the affidavit, to qualify for continued use of tanks. The KDA will be supplying needed forms.
Establishing that the tank has not been moved after December 31, 1998 is critical. That fact determines whether the KDA has jurisdiction or whether a tank is subject to the Kansas Boiler Safety Act administered by the Kansas Dept. of Labor (DOPL). DOL has authority over all pressurized vessels placed in service or relocated on or after Jan. 1, 1999, and the KDA program options outlined above do not apply.
Cooperatives with tanks marked with a working pressure of 200 psi will need to notify the KDA and develop a plan for phasing-out use of the tanks by 2022 or have the tanks tested so that they may be rated at 250 psi or greater. If the tanks have emergency shut offs, the tanks can qualify for the 10-year phase out.
It is important that agribusiness contact the KDA in a timely manner so that tanks with decals expiring Dec. 31 of this year can be renewed to ensure continued use. Calendar year-end is a busy time for the department and holidays cut into the number of working days available in December. Thus, we encourage you to contact KDA soon. For more information on this program, please feel free to contact the KCC, KARA or the KDA.
Clarification of KDA inspection of pesticide containers July 19, 2012
After a recent inspection of pesticide containers by the Kansas Department of Agriculture at a member’s facility, KARA’s legal department has issued the below clarification. Members are asked to be aware that KDA inspectors can perform inspections of pesticide/fertilizer storage sites for state purposes as well federal (under EPA credentials).
State inspections under State law: KDA inspectors may perform inspections pursuant to Kansas law and regulations. Under the preemption doctrine, however, federal law preempts all state laws in the same area, and any such state program must be “at least equal to” the federal program. States only maintain lawful authority to enforce their own laws in a preempted area if permitted to do so by the federal government – e.g., they must maintain an “equal to” standard. Because federal law (FIFRA) exists in this area, it preempts all similar state law. Here, the EPA determines whether KDA maintains an “equal to” standard based on a holistic review of the state program. Under an “equal to” standard KDA is not required to use EPA forms or specifically mirror the federal program. For example, inspections under the state program may be more frequent, fines might be less aggressive, mediation processes may be more or less liberal, etc. Most inspections by KDA, by far, are performed for state purposes under state law. Under these types of inspections, KDA will use their own forms, protocols, etc.
Federal Inspections performed by KDA inspectors: In the second scenario, KDA inspectors serve as contract agents of the EPA to conduct “federal inspections” for the EPA. This is the type of inspection that took place in the situation described below. In this type of inspection, state inspectors perform the inspection pursuant to authority under federal law, for EPA, as if they were employees of EPA, using all forms, procedures, and protocols under the EPA. Under this scenario, it would be as if the EPA had performed the inspection. These inspections are far less common.
SPCC outreach materials July 19, 2012
The Emergency Management Office of the EPA recently released outreach materials regarding the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures Rule (SPCC). Many farms are currently subject to this rule, and many more will be subject by the compliance deadline of May 13, 2013.
Click here for details about the SPCC rule and how it applies to farms or visit the SPCC for Agriculture page on the EPA website.
Flow charts explain pesticide container regulations May 17, 2012
EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs has provided three flow charts to provide assistance in complying with the pesticide container and repackaging regulations. Please note that flow charts #2 and #3 should be printed on legal-sized paper and that you need to manually select legal-sized paper.
U.S. fertilizer use and price data set May 17, 2012
The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has updated its data set which "... brings together data on fertilizer consumption in the United States by plant nutrient and major selected product, as well as consumption of mixed fertilizers, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients. Share of crop area receiving fertilizer and fertilizer use per receiving acre, by nutrient, are presented for the major producing states for corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat. Additional data include fertilizer farm prices and indices of wholesale fertilizer price ..." The May 4, 2012 ERS update of its "Fertilizer Use and Price" data set is available here.
Former KARA Chairman takes EPA inside his agribusiness April 24, 2012
Last Monday Doyle Pearl, General Manager of J.B. Pearl Sales and Service in St. Marys, took six high-ranking officials of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a behind-the-scenes look at his Kansas agribusiness. Included in the group were Jim Jones, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP); Louise Wise, Deputy Assistant Administrator, OCSPP; Steve Bradbury, Director, Office of Pesticide Programs, OSCPP; Robert McNally, Director, Field and External Affairs Division, OSCPP; Damon Frizzel, Region 7 Ag Advisor; and Josh Svaty, Region 7 Ag Advisor.
The group’s visit to JB Pearl Sales and Service was a unique opportunity for the industry to share the importance of crop protection in providing food and fiber to the public. “No business wakes up hoping to receive a visit from the EPA, but our obligation to share the true story of agribusiness with consumers and governing agencies is all too important,” Pearl said.
The tour covered several aspects of a retail facility including a product warehouse, seed treatment facility, field application and corn planting. The EPA officials were actively engaged and able to understand the day-to-day operations of Kansas agribusinesses. During the visit, Pearl encouraged the EPA to consider the importance of keeping the crop protection toolbox robust while also weighing the regulation burden on rural businesses.
EPA denies petition on 2,4-D pesticide April 24, 2012
On April 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was denying a 2008 Petition of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to cancel the pesticide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, or 2,4-D, and revoke all its tolerances.
Stating that the Agency had conducted a thorough evaluation of all the available data, the public comments submitted to the docket responding to the petition, and the state-of-the-science One Generation Reproduction test, Cathryn Britton of the EPA said they had no concern and would not re-open the safety assessment of 2,4-D.
"That study provides an in-depth examination of 2,4-D’s potential for endocrine disruptor, neurotoxic, and immunotoxic effects. The study and EPA’s comprehensive review confirmed EPA’s previous finding that the 2,4-D tolerances are safe. Based on studies addressing endocrine effects on wildlife species and the adequacy of personal protective equipment for workers, the Agency concluded that the science behind our current ecological and worker risk assessments for 2,4-D is sound and there is no basis to change the registrations." Click here to read EPA's Release on their decision.
Multi-Year Flex Account program applications available April 24, 2012
The Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources is accepting applications for the revised program that allows groundwater water right holders to manage their water right over a 5-year period.
The 2012 Legislature made significant changes to the state’s Multi-Year Flex Account (MYFA) program as part of a series of water law changes designed to conserve the state’s water supply and extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer. Senate Bill 272, signed by Gov. Brownback in Garden City last month, provides for this expanded flexibility in managing wateruse. Read more.
Commercial Fertilizer 2010 Report January 19, 2012
The 2010 edition of the Commercial Fertilizers report has been finalized and copies are available for purchase. Commercial Fertilizers 2010 is a cooperative effort between The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) and is based on fertilizer consumption data submitted by state fertilizer control officials. The report’s basic findings show a 17.9 percent increase in U.S. fertilizer nutrient consumption to 20.843 million short tons for the fertilizer year (FY) ending June 30, 2010.
Specifically, the report found that in FY 2009/10 nitrogen consumption increased 7.2 percent to 12.285 million nutrient tons (MNT), phosphate consumption increased 30.7 percent to 4.099 MNT and potash consumption increased 44.7 percent to 4.458 MNT. The report also found that gross tonnage increased 18.4 percent to 55.837 million tons of material. That figure includes single, multiple and micro-nutrient materials, as well as organic and secondary materials. Click here for a summary by major material for the United States for FY 2008/09 and FY 2009/10.
Hard copies of the report can be ordered by completing the attached order form or going to TFI’s website at www.tfi.org. The report is not available in electronic format. The cost of the report is $30 per copy for members of TFI and AAPFCO and $100 per copy for non-members. All proceeds from the sale of the report go to AAPFCO to support the data collection effort.