Thursday, December 18, 2008
Comments on Ammonium Nitrate ANPRM – 12-12-08
The comments are starting to come in at an accelerating rate. This last week we have had two commentors make submissions about the ammonium nitrate advanced notice of proposed rule making; twice as many as last week. The two comments were received from Michael B. Ag/Gro Fertilizer Inc Michael B. Comments Michael B. suggests that DHS include a small volume exception to these rules when they are written. He would also like to see licensed users under 27 CFR part 555 exempted from the registration requirements. Interestingly Michael B. actually read the ANPRM and attempted to provide answers to each of the questions that DHS posed to the regulated community. He suggests that DHS use both computer and manual processes for completing registration applications and suggests patterning the process on the similar process that ATF uses. His most interesting comment comes on the question of the potential usefulness of this process and it is worth quoting in its entirety. He writes: “It will make a lot of legislators feel better but unfortunately I don't think it will stop a determined terrorist from obtaining a large quantity of AN.” Ag/Gro Fertilizer Inc Comments For some reason DHS has assigned a different document number to each page of the Ag/Gro submission, page 1, page 2, and page 3. Ag/Gro has also submitted answers to each of the questions that DHS asked in the ANPRM. They suggest electronic submissions through the local agricultural extension office; noting that less than half of their customers have routine access to a computer. They suggest that the user certificates be a ‘tamper-proof card’ with a bar code and that each distributor receive a reader from DHS. Ag/Gro does not believe that an inspection program will be required for long, because the potential fines will drive most distributors out of the AN business. They suggest that the various State departments of Agriculture be given the responsibility for conducting the inspections. On the questions of fees, they note that Congress prohibited charging the farmers a fee and comment that placing a fee on distributors or manufacturers will cause most to exit the business. Ag/Gro estimates that there could be upwards of 50,000 AN fertilizer users that would have to register and be certified. This will be a time consuming process. They also note that DHS needs to give plenty of advance notice when the implement this rule to allow distributors to sell off their inventory before this rule take effect, otherwise they will likely be stuck with unsellable product. My Comments on Comments I am really concerned with the predictions of Ag/Gro about the effect of these proposed regulations on the future of anhydrous ammonia as a fertilizer. If their expectations are correct, this will have an effect entirely unexpected to the members of Congress that pushed the requirement for this rule through the legislative process. It might be an interesting graduate student project at a couple of land-grant colleges to interview farmers and distributors of ammonium nitrate to see if Ag/Gro’s opinion is any where near correct. I think that Ag/Gro’s comments about a bar code reader for verification are probably unnecessary. A photo ID card should suffice, especially since most of the buyers will be well known to the sellers.