Friday, August 26, 2011

Agriculture and Chemical Security

While we are having the on-going discussion in the United States about renewing the CFATS program it is interesting to note that Australia is still in the process of formulating their chemical security program. There is an interesting short article at about the agriculture industry’s attempt to avoid coverage by the program that the Australian government has been developing since 2008.

The article does not describe the ‘onerous’ security measures that would have to be put into place to protect IED precursor chemicals like potassium nitrate. It does note that they include measures to address:

•Employee and contractor checking and security awareness
•Inventory control, and
•Sales and distribution.

Since agriculture is one of the biggest bulk users of potassium nitrate it is hard to see how any effective program to keep that material out of the hands of potential terrorists could not include security at agricultural sites. Of course, having said that, readers of this blog will almost certainly remember that agricultural production facilities are still ‘temporarily’ exempted from coverage of the CFATS program.

Even the proposed ammonium nitrate regulations do not propose to impose any security requirements on ag producers beyond the simple registration of farmers buying the material. They will not even be required to report the theft or loss of ammonium nitrate to Federal authorities.

I understand that production margins at many ag production facilities, particularly family owned facilities, are slim and variable. But, the same can be said for many small chemical production facilities, and they are not generically exempt from security requirements. I also realize that many rural facilities are far from the urban centers that are potential terrorist targets, but we are not expecting terrorists to bomb the family farm.

The security community is, however, concerned about terrorist potentially acquiring large amounts of IED precursors from rural facilities, via theft or diversion, and using them in terrorist attacks in urban centers. One only has to look at the bombing portion of the recent lone-wolf attack in Norway to see how easy it is to divert IED precursors from the agricultural supply chain.

One can only wish Australian regulators luck in bringing the ag producers into the chemical security fold. We are still waiting to see if/when the CFATS program will be made to apply to those production facilities here in the United States.

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