A Labor Department proposal could make some nitrogen fertilizer more expensive or harder to find. That has Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asking the Labor Department some questions about its new guidance on chemical storage.
In response to a 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, the Labor Department has proposed tightening federal safety rules that until now exempted retailers, including those who sell anhydrous ammonia to farmers. Grassley says the cost of compliance may lead some smaller places to stop selling the liquid fertilizer.
"With anhydrous ammonia application being a seasonal occurrence," Grassley says, "it will be difficult for small retailers who supply farmers to absorb the cost."
Those who invest in compliance, Grassley says, will likely then pass the cost on to their customers.
"Safety measures are very important and should absolutely be a top priority," Grassley says, "but eliminating the retail exemption may be a knee-jerk reaction to a granular form of nitrogen, which is very different from the anhydrous ammonia used by farmers."
Ammonium nitrate, which exploded at the West Fertilizer Plant in Texas, is dry and granular.
Grassley has sent a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez asking the department to explain its rationale for including retailers.