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Government needs to help secure crop inputs


June 11, 2010
By Fruit & Vegetable

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June 11, 2010, Winnipeg,
MB – The recent public scare involving the mysterious purchase of more than
1500 kilograms of ammonium nitrate from a fertilizer dealer in southern Ontario
may have turned out to be a mere “gardening incident” but Canadian ag retailers
warn that an overall public threat still exists.



June 11, 2010, Winnipeg,
MB – The recent public scare involving the mysterious purchase of more than
1500 kilograms of ammonium nitrate from a fertilizer dealer in southern Ontario
may have turned out to be a mere “gardening incident” but Canadian ag retailers
warn that an overall public threat still exists.

The Canadian Association
of Agri-Retailers (CAAR)
, which represents crop input businesses across Canada,
said that essential crop inputs, like fertilizers, continue to remain
vulnerable to criminal and terrorist misappropriation; explaining that
agri-retailers who store and sell these products have been imploring the
government for three years to help them upgrade physical security at their
sites to reduce the risk of malicious diversion.

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“Regardless of the
outcome, this incident should remind us to remain vigilant knowing that
potential threats do exist and that terrorists will persist in trying to
acquire what are normally benign agricultural products and misuse them for
destructive purposes,” says David MacKay, president and CEO of CAAR. “The
threat has not diminished and therefore we need to physically secure and
protect all of the inputs that are critical to crop production in Canada.
Notwithstanding the threat to the Canadian public, farmers and retailers can
ill afford to lose these products to reactive over-regulation following a
terrorist incident.”

Rigorous and explicit
rules under the Restricted Components Regulations of the Explosives Act govern
the handling of potentially explosive precursors like ammonium nitrate.

“The regulations are a
very effective front-line deterrent against fraudulent purchases but
unfortunately they do not address the necessary precautions to physically
secure all crop inputs that farmers need in a single comprehensive plan,” adds
MacKay. “Ammonium nitrate is not the only high-risk agricultural product that
must be protected and common sense dictates that a terrorist won’t always walk
through the front door to buy it – they instead will prefer to steal it so we
must be prepared for that tactic.”

CAAR has proposed an
Integrated Crop Input Security Protocol that would split the cost of upgrading
security infrastructure at 1500 agri-retail sites across Canada – an initiative
estimated to cost approximately $ 100 million overall. This would include
installation of perimeter fencing, surveillance and alarm devices, lighting,
locks, software as well as training staff in various security techniques. The
agri-retail sector exercises diligence in handling crop inputs but asserts that
the government still has a shared responsibility in the mandate of maintaining
public safety.

CAAR has sought to
partner with government to find an effective and affordable solution in the
interest of national security and the preservation of a key economic sector.
However, to date, the government has not responded to CAAR’s proposal to share
costs despite two Parliamentary recommendations, an existing precedent for a
program that funded identical security at Canadian port facilities, as well as
U.S. legislation that currently offers a tax credit to American agri-retailers
that upgrade security at their sites.

“Our current regulations
do well to deter and thwart pretentious purchases of agri-chemicals but they do
not address the need to physically secure all of our precious crop inputs at
retail sites,” said MacKay. “An effective security strategy must cover all
aspects of vulnerability – it makes no sense to lock the proverbial doors only
to leave the windows open.”


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