ResponsibleAg is proud to report that over the past five years the agricultural retail industry has seen continued improvements in safety practices and regulatory compliance.
The first retail facilities were audited and received ResponsibleAg certification in 2015. Today, only about 0.4 percent of the issues noted in current-year audits would be considered serious violations by U.S. regulatory agencies. The vast majority of findings are paperwork-related — as minor as failing to check a box, dot an ‘I’ or cross a ‘T’.
“ResponsibleAg has reached many milestones in certifying facilities and correcting deficiencies, but I believe one of the program’s most important achievements is simply raising awareness of safety issues and raising the bar,” says Tim McArdle, COO and Executive Vice President of Brandt Consolidated, Inc., and Chairman of the ResponsibleAg Board of Directors. “ResponsibleAg has magnified awareness of regulatory compliance and the methods for achieving compliance. If regulatory pressure does increase in the future, ResponsibleAg is well positioned to help the agricultural retail industry succeed.”Back to Top
ResponsibleAg recently reached a major milestone when the program’s 3,660th audit was completed at Simplot Grower Solutions in Guadalupe, California. This audit milestone is significant because it reflects the value agricultural facilities see in ResponsibleAg and reinforces their commitment to safety and regulatory compliance. Here’s what an audit entails.Back to Top
Just a friendly reminder to all auditors that the auditor entry system will be down for annual routine maintenance over the holidays, from December 20, 2020, to January 6, 2021. During this time, auditors will not be able to enter audit findings or perform audits. Auditors should enter all remaining 2020 audit results before December 20th.
The 2021 Audit Checklist and Entry System will be available on January 6, 2021. It includes questions related to the FMCSA Clearinghouse Annual Query and clarification of a few state-specific guidance items.Back to Top
In a world where diversity often leads to divergent opinions, it’s rare to find total agreement. Our three most recent Faces of ResponsibleAg profiles feature a farm operator, an industry veteran and a new association executive. Although each has a different perspective on ResponsibleAg, they all agree certification through ResponsibleAg yields significant benefits for participating facilities and the industry.Back to Top
An employee injured on the job was the wake-up call that prompted Trey Hill, owner and manager of Harborview Farms near Rock Hall, Maryland, to sign on to the ResponsibleAg program. Hill suddenly realized workplace safety wasn’t a priority in the 13,000-acre operation’s culture, and that had to change. Much like a small agribusiness, Hill and his 14 employees handle seed, fertilizer, crop-protection products and grain. With help from ResponsibleAg’s educational resources and its audit process, the Harborview Farms team has completely embraced a new attitude toward safety. Read the entire story to learn about this farm’s new safety culture.Back to Top
In February 2014, Daren Coppock, President and CEO of the Agricultural Retailers Association, was among industry leaders who laid the groundwork for what would become ResponsibleAg. Today, when Coppock visits Capitol Hill to meet with representatives from federal agencies or congressional committees, he quickly points to the ResponsibleAg Certification Program, the ag retail industry’s proactive approach to safety and compliance. “When we note the number of facilities enrolled and show how businesses are improving and correcting potential violations, it delivers an incredibly positive message. We can say, ‘If you’re thinking about piling more regulations on us, take a look at this first,’” says Coppock. Read more.Back to Top
When Corey Rosenbusch took the helm as President and CEO of The Fertilizer Institute in February 2020, no one could have imagined the challenges the ag industry would face due to COVID-19. Nor could they have imagined the indirect benefits the pandemic would bring. Rosenbusch believes that working through the pandemic has heightened the industry’s ResponsibleAg-inspired focus on workplace safety. “When you focus on keeping your workers safe through a pandemic, there becomes an even greater awareness of safety in general,” Rosenbusch says. Many TFI-member companies have seen safety performance improvements during the last eight to nine months, something he says the industry should be extremely proud of. He shares his perspective in the December Faces of ResponsibleAg.Back to Top
When preparing for an audit, facility managers should be aware that Number 11 on the ResponsibleAg list of Top 25 Audit Issues is the Confined Space Entry Program 29 CFR 1910.146(c)(4). If employees enter permit spaces in the course of their work, the employer must develop and implement a written permit space program. Grain handling facilities are also subject to the rule and should refer to 29 CFR 1910.272(g).
More information about these and other regulations and documentation is available with membership in ResponsibleAg. Program participants can quickly access all the details by visiting the online Compliance Assistance Library. Within each compliance assistance document, there is a link to complete information about the regulations in question.Back to Top
Are you passionate about safety? Do you like to teach others? Are you looking for another service to provide your ag retail clients? Do you like to work with others to create a safer work environment? If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider becoming a credentialed ResponsibleAg auditor.
Keith Kennedy provides advocacy and management services for agricultural associations in Wyoming. Kennedy says, “We were already helping members of our state’s agribusiness association keep up with rules and regulations, so becoming an auditor was a great way to stress the importance of workplace safety with those retailers while reducing their costs and adding to our business.”
Alan Mahoney of Mahoney Safety remembers why he became an auditor. “After the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, it was evident we had to change the perspective of people in the ag retail industry,” Mahoney says. “I thought it was important that something be done, and when The Fertilizer Institute and the Agricultural Retailers Association came up with a way to do it through the ResponsibleAg program, I was more than happy to help.”
The next Auditor Training Course is June 22-25, 2021, at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, Kentucky. To learn more, click “Become an Auditor” at ResponsibleAg.org or call 270-683-6777. To register, click here.Back to Top
Facilities certified through ResponsibleAg must repeat the audit process every three years to maintain ResponsibleAg certification. Doing so ‒ and completing any action items needed ‒ keeps the emphasis on safety and assures that facilities remain compliant. The three-year audit cycle also is effective in keeping facility personnel up to date on safe practices as well as new or updated rules and regulations.
ResponsibleAg sends a notice to facility managers when they’re due for their next audit to remind them to schedule an audit. Watch your inbox for this reminder!Back to Top
ResponsibleAg wishes our members, affiliates and everyone throughout the industry a safe, healthy and joyful holiday season. It’s the ideal time to reflect, take note of what we’re grateful for and carve out time to spend with family and friends.Back to Top
If you’re not yet participating in ResponsibleAg, you’re invited to discover more about ResponsibleAg’s mission to help participants remain compliant with environmental, health, safety and security regulations to keep employees, customers and community safe. Learn more here.Back to Top
To help avoid confusion, the DOT published its final rule clarifying the definition of agricultural commodity within the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. Currently, during harvest and planting seasons as outlined by each state, drivers are exempt from the HOS requirements when transporting commodities, including livestock, to locations within a 150-air-mile radius of the source. DOT published this new rule to clarify the meaning of these existing terms and to ensure that the HOS exemptions are followed as Congress intended.
Agricultural commodity means any non-processed food, feed, fiber or livestock. Further clarifications are:
The January 5, 2021, deadline is fast approaching for employers to conduct a required annual Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse query for each CDL driver they employ. The annual query requirement is tracked on a rolling 12-month basis, and the one-year timeframe resets whenever a query is conducted on a driver. A limited query satisfies the requirement, but employers must obtain a general consent form from CDL drivers before conducting limited queries in the Clearinghouse. Get more information here.Back to Top
As part of its regulatory review of paraquat dichloride, the EPA is proposing new safety measures to better protect human health and the environment. The proposed changes include:
The EPA proposal also would allow truck drivers who are not certified applicators to transport paraquat when certain conditions are met.
Comments must be received by Dec. 22, 2020. Read more about the proposed interim decision.Back to Top
Welcome to these facilities that are now Committed, Compliant, Safe, and Certified. We'd like to send a special shout out to the locations that have completed recertification, noted below with an asterisk*. The commitment to safety by all these facilities represents an incredibly positive and important effort for our industry. Congratulations to all!
ResponsibleAg is an industry-led initiative committed to helping agribusinesses properly store and handle farm input supplies. The program helps members ensure they are compliant with environmental, health, safety and security regulations to keep employees, customers and our communities safe.