Canadian Agri-retailers implore government to help secure crop inputs

Agricultural retailers relieved that suspicious purchase of ammonium nitrate was merely a 'gardening incident' but remain concerned that government has not done enough to help secure essential crop inputs at agri-retail sites

WINNIPEG, June 11 /CNW/ - The recent public scare involving a mysterious purchase of over 1500 kilograms of ammonium nitrate from a fertilizer dealer in southern Ontario has fortunately been determined to be "nothing nefarious" and merely a "gardening incident." The Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers (CAAR), which represents crop input businesses across Canada, shares in the collective relief that this particular incident posed no apparent threat to national security but warns that an overall public threat still exists and that essential crop inputs like fertilizers remain vulnerable to criminal and terrorist misappropriation. Agri-retailers who store and sell these products to Canadian farmers have been imploring the government for 3 years to help them upgrade physical security at their sites to reduce the risk of malicious diversion.

"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 considerable 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. 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."

CAAR is a not-for-profit industry association serving approximately 1000 agri-retail members across Canada and acts as the voice of the sector which is responsible for marketing nearly $ 10 Billion in crop inputs, equipment and services to Canadian farmers. The CAAR office is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

SOURCE CAAR (CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF AGRI-RETAILERS)

For further information: For further information: Media Contact: David MacKay, President & CEO, Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers (CAAR), Ph. (204) 955-3714, e-mail: dave@caar.org, website: www.caar.org

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CAAR (CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF AGRI-RETAILERS)

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