The majority of farmers no longer need to be in a rush to complete a chemical storage risk assessment for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by Jan. 22. With a few exceptions, DHS has decided to grant agricultural operations an indefinite stay from the requirement.

"Under current threat conditions, DHS does not believe that on-farm storage of chemicals used for agricultural purposes poses a significant terrorist threat that justifies farm compliance with the regulation at this time," says Michigan Farm Bureau Commodity and Marketing Department manager Bob Boehm.

However, Boehm stressed that the action is not a regulatory exemption. Rather, DHS is saying "don't worry about compliance for now."

"If security threats increase in the future or there is reason to believe that a particular facility or category of facilities pose a significant threat, DHS will notify those operations about the need to register," he notes.

As part of national anti-terrorism efforts, DHS is authorized to regulate the security of "high-risk chemical facilities," which are deemed to be any facility using or storing certain chemicals above a specified threshold established by DHS Chemical Facility and Anti-Terrorism Standards. Chemicals singled out by DHS include commonly used products on farms, such as anhydrous ammonia and propane.

Previously, farmers had been told they needed to complete a preliminary risk assessment tool, called the Chemical Security Anti-Terrorism (CSAT) Top Screen, by Jan. 22. Upon completion of that assessment, DHS would have determined whether the farm presented a security risk and needed to meet additional standards.

DHS has informed stakeholders that "until further notice, or unless otherwise specifically notified in writing by DHS," the CSAT is not required of a facility that possesses chemicals of interest at or above DHS quantity thresholds if the chemicals are used:

  • In preparation for the treatment of crops, feed, land, livestock (including poultry) or other areas of an agricultural production facility.
  • During application to or treatment of crops, feed, land, livestock (including poultry) or other areas of an agricultural production facility.

According to DHS, the extension applies to facilities such as "farms (e.g., crop, fruit, nut, and vegetable); ranches and rangeland; poultry, dairy, and equine facilities; turfgrass growers; golf courses; nurseries; floricultural operations; and public and private parks."

The extension, however, does not apply to chemical distribution facilities or commercial chemical application services. These facilities are still obligated to meet the Jan. 22 CSAT deadline, as are the following:

  • Farms with "large vessel" storage of propane, including Butane, at levels meeting or exceeding 60,000 pounds (14,285 gallons).
  • Agricultural production facilities with high levels of ammonia used as a refrigerant, including, potentially, large dairies and grow/pack orchards. For chemical quantity thresholds, you should consult the DHS Web site at: www.dhs.gov/chemicalsecurity.

While many farms may still be required to complete the initial risk assessment in the future, it's doubtful that many would be subjected to additional DHS protocols, says Boehm.

"We think DHS has made a smart decision in focusing its initial resources on production facilities and chemical plants where risk is the highest," he adds.

More information about the indefinite stay for agriculture is available by following this link.

In addition, a "DHS Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Farm and Ranch Guide" can be accessed by following this link (PDF format).

Source: Michigan Farm Bureau