Strict new rules for storing a popular farm fertilizer are proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Iowa’s top farm advocate says the rules are “wrong on several levels.”
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says the rules for anhydrous ammonia needs to be thrown out and OSHA should go back to the drawing board. He says the proposed regulations stem from a fatal accident, but they really shouldn’t.
“The premise, coming about after the Texas fertilizer explosion, is completely unrelated to any concerns and it doesn’t really address any concerns around anhydrous ammonia itself,” Northey says. “It’s been a real reach for OSHA to be able to address anhydrous this way.”
The blast at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas in April of 2013 leveled the small town, killed 15 people and destroyed dozens of homes. Investigators determined the explosion was caused by a fire that was intentionally set and was not caused by any breach in safety protocols. Northey says implementation of the regulations will cause a host of problems.
Northey says, “It’s just wrong on several levels and there’s certainly not enough time to be able to implement any changes, even though the changes really are not appropriate for what’s needed.” Northey says the cost of complying with the rules comes at a time when farmers and ranchers are already struggling financially and can’t really handle the extra burden.
“Every dollar matters on the farm,” Northey says. “Even with good crops in many areas of the corn belt, those dollars are not going to go far enough to pay for all the costs of putting that crop in the ground and to add extra costs, especially with no benefit to safety, just seems like the wrong thing to do.”
Northey says the rules will hurt the smaller, independent retail fertilizer dealers the most. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture is asking OSHA to delay enforcement of its new requirements for storage of anhydrous ammonia until at least July of 2018.
(By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)