Fertilizer Industry Reviewing Ammonium Nitrate Rules

The fertilizer industry wants to audit the systems in place for ensuring ammonium nitrate fertilizer is only purchased by legitimate users, according to Dave Finlayson, vice-president of science and risk management at the Canadian Fertilizer Institute.

The review by security professionals is expected to produce some answers or ideas by late summer, he added in an interview.

In May, shortly before the G-20 conference in Toronto, police launched a frantic search for a man who bought 1,500 kilograms of ammonium nitrate in bags from a farm supply centre in the Niagara region without providing the identification that’s required under federal regulations.

In the end, police concluded there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the purchase.

News reports at the time said employees at the co-operative told police they didn’t get the man’s identification details because they assumed he was a regular. Police said he’d falsely represented himself as a worker for a local grower, investigators learned.

“The employees assisted the customer with loading his trailer with the fertilizer. As the customer drove away, they realized he was not a regular customer.”

Finlayson said the incident provides the fertilizer industry with a reason to audit the security systems and rules in place for selling the fertilizer, implemented in 2008 by Natural Resources Canada, replacing a voluntary industry security program.

While it missed on the ID requirement, the store did report the event to police once it realized the man shouldn’t have purchased the fertilizer, Finlayson added.

“The prudent thing to do is to review the incident and see if there are ways we can improve the system,” he said.

The industry helped develop the security plan because of the potential to use ammonium nitrate in bombs. In 1995, 168 people were killed in Oklahoma City in the detonation of ammonium nitrate mixed with motor fuel in the back of a rental van.

The regulations require that anyone selling ammonium nitrate fertilizer:

enrol with Natural Resources Canada’s explosives regulatory division as an authorized seller of ammonium nitrate;

take security measures to protect ammonium nitrate supplies and all related documentation from theft and unauthorized access;

request from customers proper identification and intent for purchasing the ammonium nitrate;

inform end-users and transporters about how to protect ammonium nitrate from theft;

provide the explosives regulatory division’s chief inspector of explosives with annual inventory reports, and

report any suspicious activity to appropriate authorities.

The Fertilizer Safety and Security Council has an education program called On Guard for Canada, to inform agri-retailers and farmers about the need to be vigilant in selling, storing or using ammonium nitrate.

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