The Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute have created ResponsibleAg, an independent, not-for-profit organization designed to support fertilizer retailers' compliance with federal safety and security regulations.
Under ResponsibleAg, retail fertilizer dealerships will have access to comprehensive inspections based on federal regulatory requirements. The inspections will be carried out by trained auditors who will have successfully completed an intensive training course based on the objectives of ResponsibleAg.
"While the vast majority of fertilizer retail businesses operate safely, securely and in compliance with federal regulations, we are acting out of an abundance of caution and concern for the well-being of workers and communities," said TFI President Chris Jahn.
Jahn said ResponsibleAg will verify compliance at more facilities and with greater speed than is currently being done by federal agencies. "We are choosing to act now rather than waiting for the next government inspection," he said in a statement.
ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock explained that retailers want to do the right thing, but overlapping, duplicative or potentially conflicting requirements make compliance a challenge. He suggests the program will help by collecting the regulatory requirements into one checklist.
It will also offer retailers tools and information to ensure their facilities conform to all current federal regulations, Coppock said.
According to the program announcement, ResponsibleAg will credential auditors who will inspect and verify individual facilities' level of compliance with applicable federal regulations.
Facilities that successfully complete assessments will be recognized for having done so. Any site that does not successfully complete an assessment will be provided a list of recommended corrective actions. Additionally, random quality assurance reviews to verify the assessments will be conducted by third party auditors.
To get the program off the ground, TFI and ARA have each pledged $100,000 in startup capital for the organization, and the Asmark Institute is providing an ongoing contribution that provides for training programs, training facilities and administration of the ResponsibleAg website and database.
Once established, ResponsibleAg will be funded by registration fees paid by participating fertilizer storage and handling inventory points and their suppliers, the groups said. Auditor training costs will be funded by tuition paid by those seeking the ResponsibleAg auditor credential.
Membership in TFI, ARA or any other organization is not a requirement for participation.
ARA and TFI will nominate a nine person Board of Directors which will be filled from a cross section representing the entire fertilizer distribution network, the announcement explained.
Once the Board of Directors has been seated, it will adopt ResponsibleAg bylaws, create an annual operating budget and appoint a business manager to oversee day-to-day operations. When the initial Board of Directors' term has expired, subsequent Directors will be nominated from ResponsibleAg participating organizations.