Combating the threat from agricultural chemicals

New compliance regulations seek to minimize threat from chemicals used in U.S. agriculture


The final interim rule specified only facilities that possess a chemical of interest higher than the STQ will need to fill out a Top-Screen. "The CFATS program was designed to identify, prioritize and secure truly high-risk facilities. It was not intended to impose regulatory requirements on low-risk end-users, such as farms," he adds.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says that Appendix A plays an important role in the federal government's effort to make it less likely for terrorists to use dangerous chemicals in attacks.

Enhancing security is the main intent of CFATS. The DHS chose three categories of security to focus on when determining which chemicals would make it onto Appendix A. They are release, theft/diversion and sabotage.

The release category includes chemicals that could release a toxic cloud, a flammable vapor or create an explosion that could affect people within and beyond the facility if intentionally released.

The theft and diversion category includes chemicals that could be stolen and used as chemical weapons or easily converted into chemical weapons or explosives.

The third category, sabotage/contamination, refers to chemicals that, if mixed with other readily available materials, could present deathly consequences to human life and health.

Many agricultural facilities possess chemicals and fertilizers that fall under these three categories.

You may be wondering how all these new regulations will affect your day-to-day operations. For most facilities, such as feed mills, ethanol plants and other grain producers, that question can't be answered until a Top-Screen is filled out and submitted.

According to the final Appendix A of CFATS, facilities in possession of a chemical of interest that meets or exceeds the STQ set by the DHS must submit a Top-Screen online, within 60 calendar days of coming into possession of the chemical.

Following the issuance of Appendix A, legislative developments and unforeseen consequences required further review of the CFATS regulatory framework. The focus is chemicals of interest widely used throughout the agricultural community. To conduct a thorough review of these issues, the DHS granted an indefinite extension for facilities that possess a chemical of interest above the STQ solely for the treatment of crops, feed, land, livestock or other areas of an agricultural production facility.

"The agricultural extension letter provides an indefinite extension for Top-Screen submissions to certain facilities in the agricultural community while the Department develops a successful approach for the agricultural community," says Deziel.

The extension applies to facilities such as farms (e.g., crop, fruit, nut and vegetable); ranches and ranchland; poultry, dairy and equine facilities; turf grass growers and golf courses; nurseries; floricultural operations; and public and private parks.

"The agricultural extension does not apply to chemical distribution facilities, commercial chemical application services, Co-ops or retail supply centers. If a facility or farm possesses a chemical of interest at or above the designated Screening Threshold Quantity for reasons other than those specified in the letter, the facility is still required to submit a Top-Screen to the Department," Deziel says.

The DHS will cooperate with agricultural producers to identify the best ways to regulate frequently used nitrogen fertilizers such as ammonia solutions, anhydrous ammonia and urea.

To determine if your facility is required to complete a Top-Screen form, refer to 72 FR 17688 and 65396 (the agriculture extension letter), on the DHS website at www.dhs.gov.

In addition to the extension, the DHS developed a specialized approach for certain chemicals like propane to accommodate agricultural facilities' needs.

It was one of the most significant changes made to Appendix A based on the public's comments.