Volume 40
Jan 10, 2021

Two New Questions on 2021 Audit Checklist ‒ Are You Complying?

The 2021 ResponsibleAg Audit Checklist, includes questions on two new topics: 1) the annual FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse query that businesses are required to run checking for unresolved drug and alcohol program violations for their CDL drivers; and 2) ensuring placement of posters describing the current rights of employees of California agribusinesses to see medical and exposure records.

The audit checklist is a comprehensive list of questions used by credentialed auditors to assess the level of compliance at each participating facility. It’s also a great tool that can help ensure your facility remains in compliance throughout the three-year audit cycle. Check it out today.

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Credentialed Auditors, Have You Completed Refresher Training?

It’s a new year ‒ a good time for all ResponsibleAg auditors to complete the annual online refresher training tutorial in order to remain credentialed and perform audits in 2021. If you haven’t completed the online tutorial, login today to your auditor account on The training provides updates on changes and offers refreshers and friendly reminders on various topics.

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Safety at the Forefront: Why This EPA Regulator Values ResponsibleAg Program

Jim Belke

Jim Belke’s career has taken different turns throughout the years. A former U.S. Naval officer whose training qualified him as a chief nuclear engineer aboard nuclear submarines, he now serves as coordinator of the EPA Risk Management Program. No matter the job, however, he says all have had a common thread ‒ managing risks and preventing accidents.

Belke notes that at the EPA, safety Is the goal, and that’s why he is an ardent supporter of the ResponsibleAg program. As he puts it, “As a government regulator, I view ResponsibleAg as a great thing. We’d much rather have the industry taking ownership, finding safety issues and fixing them before we ever show up.” Read why in the latest Faces of ResponsibleAg.

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ARA Highlights What to Expect from Biden Administration

Richard Gupton

As retailers turn the calendar to 2021 and the Biden administration takes the lead in government agencies that regulate agriculture, the question looms: “What, if any, regulatory changes should be expected?”

Fortunately for the ag retail industry, the public policy team at the Agricultural Retailer’s Association (ARA) has great insights into the new administration’s priority issues. The team is prepared to engage with current contacts at regulatory agencies, as well as incumbent legislators, six new senators and the large class of 60 new incoming members of Congress.

Richard Gupton, Senior Vice President, Public Policy at ARA, notes a few of the key issues on the organization’s radar.

  1. Climate Change – working to support technologies that offer sustainable solutions such as renewable fuels and to leverage agriculture’s capabilities in the area of carbon sequestration and existing conservation efforts
  2. Waters of the U.S. ‒ collaboration with other agricultural organizations to maintain current policies that are positive for agriculture
  3. Food Equity ‒ ensuring agriculture has the tools to continue providing a safe and affordable food supply
  4. Pesticide policy/FIFRA – supporting sound science and decisions that don’t cause major disruptions for ag retailers and farmers
  5. Ag Labor – including policies related to managing process safety, hours of service, new driver training and driver screenings that makes sense to keep employees and the public safe

Presenting agriculture’s position using sound, science-based information is paramount in educating lawmakers and working toward proactive efforts. It’s also critical to find incentive-based solutions for agriculture rather than relying on heavy-handed regulatory enforcement. ARA also will highlight industry efforts to ensure compliance, such as the voluntary ResponsibleAg Certification Program.

Key efforts in this area begin early in 2021 with the ARA Virtual Fly In, Feb 11 - Mar 19, 2021. Members are encouraged to register and participate to help bring about necessary legislation and policies that benefit agricultural retailers, farmer customers and rural communities.

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Biden Considering Emergency Rule to Help Protect Your Workers from Coronavirus

In a statement late last year, President-elect Biden said his administration will ask OSHA to detemine whether to establish an emergency temporary standard to keep workers safe from COVID-19. OSHA could act immediately by ramping up inspections, filling vacancies and creating a workplace safety standard to be followed during the pandemic. OSHA reported collecting $3.85 million in fines during 2020 for violations arising from 295 inspections related to the coronavirus. Seventeen citations were issued in the week ending December 24.

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First Aid Kit at the Ready? Many Are Not.

Number 12 on the ResponsibleAg list of Top 25 Audit Issues is the requirement to have a first aid kit with adequate supplies at the ready. Particularly if there is not a medical facility nearby for treatment of injured employees, ag facilities are required to have a well-equipped first aid kit as well as one or more persons adequately trained to render first aid.

This is just one example of the many regulations and documentation explained in detail within ResponsibleAg’s online Compliance Assistance Library. Program participants can quickly access all regulatory details by visiting this detailed online resource. If your organization isn’t participating in the ResponsibleAg program, register today for this and many other resources to ensure your business is compliant and your employees safe.

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Stay Connected to ResponsibleAg ‒ Add Us to Your “Safe Senders” List

Make sure you don’t miss any news from ResponsibleAg in 2021. It takes only a few quick steps to add to your “safe senders” list. Doing so ensures email messages from ResponsibleAg will never be moved to the Junk E-mail folder. For help, use your browser to search “safe senders list” and find the process right for your e-mail program.

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Got Questions about Federal Regulatory Compliance? We’ve Got Answers

Managers at ResponsibleAg-registered facilities have one-stop access to a robust collection of tools to improve their level of compliance with federal regulations. Membership benefits and resources include:

  • COVID-19 helpful links
  • Compliance Assistance Library
  • Compliance Assessment Tool
  • Mock Audit Tool
  • Industry-standard resource materials
  • Links to federal agency websites
  • Important interpretations
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • EZ Search and much more

See for yourself the powerful resources available from ResponsibleAg by visiting “Experience ResponsibleAg” at

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Limited Seats Available for June 2021 Auditor Training. We’ll Save One for You!

If you’re thinking about becoming a credentialed auditor for ResponsibleAg, don’t miss your opportunity to sign up for the 2021 Auditor Training Course, June 22-25. This unique ‘hands-on’ course is held in Owensboro, KY, in a former agrichemical facility retrofitted specifically for training purposes. Course instructor, Brian Miller, takes a practical and comprehensive approach to preparing auditors. Space is limited, and there are only 15 seats left. Reserve your spot today!

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News from Around the Industry

DOT Continues Waiver for CMV Drivers

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has extended the waiver for expiring commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) and permits, as well as non-CDL licenses, for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, until February 28, 2021. Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, some CMV drivers have been unable to renew their licenses and are unable to provide medical certificates to their state driver licensing agencies, many of which are experiencing greater than normal employee absences, reduced hours of operation or closed offices. In addition, many medical providers have canceled regularly scheduled appointments, preventing drivers from making appointments for physical examinations with medical examiners who comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Drivers claiming relief under this waiver must continue to carry a paper copy of their expired medical certificate.

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Mandatory Annual Clearinghouse Queries for Drivers Were Due January 6, 2021

Did your company remember to run its annual query with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for all its CDL drivers? Employers who are registered in the Clearinghouse database run queries to determine whether current and prospective employees have unresolved DOT drug and alcohol violations that prohibit them from performing safety-sensitive functions, such as driving a CMV. An employer or designated consortia or third-party administrator (C/TPA), such as a drug testing provider, must run a query before hiring a CDL driver as part of the pre-employment investigation process. An annual query is also required for currently employed CDL drivers. If you haven’t worked with your C/TPA to run the required annual queries, do so today.

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Five States Sue EPA Over Limits to Pesticide Safety Rule

In mid-December, five states ‒ California, Illinois, New York, Maryland and Minnesota ‒ sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a pesticide safety rule that narrows the areas where farmers are required to limit human presence during the application of pesticides. The states argue that the rule will harm their agricultural workers. The finalized rule issued in October says that requirements governing areas near pesticide applications can be enforced only on a farmer’s property and not in surrounding “off-farm” areas. The EPA argued that it was hard for farmers to enforce rules in areas off their property, but opponents of the move say that the changes risk exposing more people to harmful chemicals that can drift into nearby areas.

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What the New COVID-19 Relief Package Means for Ag Retailers

The latest COVID-19 relief legislation includes a number of provisions that may assist business during the pandemic. It extends the New Markets Tax Credit and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and includes a number of new and revised Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provisions:

  • $284.5 billion dollars to reopen and strengthen the PPP for first-time and second-time borrowers
  • Development of a process for a small business to receive a second PPP if it has fewer than 300 employees and can demonstrate a revenue reduction of 25 percent
  • Creation of a simplified PPP loan forgiveness application for loans under $150,000 dollars
  • Repeal of the CARES Act provision that requires PPP borrowers to deduct their EIDL advance from their PPP loan forgiveness amount.

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EPA Proposes Chlorpyrifos Changes

EPA is taking the next step in its regulatory review of the pesticide Chlorpyrifos by proposing these measures to reduce risks:

  • Label amendments limiting application to address potential drinking water risks
  • Additional personal protective equipment and application restrictions to address potential occupational handler risks
  • Spray drift mitigation, in combination with identified use limitations and application restrictions, to address drinking water and occupational risks and reduce exposure to non-target organisms.

The proposed interim decision and draft risk assessments are open to public comment for 60 days.

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Ag Groups File Suit over California’s New COVID-19 Regulation

A coalition of farm and business groups recently filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles challenging an emergency regulation approved by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. The complaint alleges, among other things, that the Board lacks statutory authority to impose many of the sweeping measures of the emergency temporary standards (ETS) on California employers. Additionally, the complaint contends that many of the regulations have nothing to do with workplace health or occupational safety but are designed to address non-work-related COVID-19 exposure risks.

The six plaintiff organizations are:

  • California Association of Winegrape Growers
  • California Business Roundtable
  • California Farm Bureau Federation
  • Grower-Shipper Association of Central California
  • Ventura County Agricultural Association
  • Western Growers

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“Dust Hazard Learning Review” Addresses Problems with Dust Management

In response to the real-world challenges numerous industries, including agricultural retailers, face in identifying and managing combustible dust, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) recently released a Dust Hazard Learning Review. The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency that investigates the root causes of major chemical incidents. The organization’s mission is to drive chemical safety change through independent investigations to protect people and the environment. The agency was created under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

In response to a 2017 explosion incident at a milling facility, CSB surveyed individuals involved in the safe conduct of work at inherently dust-producing environments at risk for explosions. While there’s a shared understanding of the hazards of dust, including grain and fertilizer dust, CSB investigations found that efforts to manage those hazards often fail to prevent catastrophic explosions. The resulting review is based on multiple industry perspectives, specifically focusing on the following issues that make it difficult to manage combustible dust:

  • Barriers to improvement – Respondents cited the inability to achieve a dust-free environment. It was revealed that the longer an operation proceeds without injuries or accidents, the greater the belief that mitigation strategies are working and that the system itself is safe.
  • Reporting – Supervisors and safety managers often expect that workers who see something will say something. This is a complex issue influenced by a number of factors.
  • Learning – Respondents identified a difference between training and learning as a significant issue. Most training programs were reported to be compliance-based and lacked practical application.
  • Sharing information – Sharing information between companies, industries, and regulators was reported to be infrequent – yet this was the most desired goal by the Call-to-Action respondents.

The report suggests some solutions, including the development of an online forum or Lessons Learned Center, where the community can explore combustible dust issues and learn from each other.

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Welcome ResponsibleAg Credentialed Auditors

ResponsibleAg is excited to announce three more ag professionals are now credentialed and available to audit ag retail facilities throughout the United States. Welcome to the team, Gentlemen!

  • Joseph Bravo, Buttonwillow Warehouse Company - Bakersfield, CA
  • Maxwell Tinsley, Valley Wide Co-op/Valley Agronomics - Nampa, ID
  • Stephen Griego, J.R. Simplot Company - Northglenn , CO

More Facilities Earn ResponsibleAg Certification

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!

*Agri-AFC, LLC - Camilla, GA
*Agri-AFC, LLC - Hattiesburg, MS
*Agri-AFC, LLC - Headland, AL
Agri-AFC, LLC - Mize, MS
Agri-AFC, LLC - Quitman, GA
*Agri-AFC, LLC - Sasser, GA
*Agri-AFC, LLC - Sylvester, GA
Brandt Consolidated - Lincoln, IL
GreenpointAg - Lawrenceville, GA
*Knox Farmers Co-op - Knoxville, TN
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Alberta, MN
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Baker City, OR
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Beatrice, NE
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Connell, WA
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Crawfordsville, AR
Nutrien Ag Solutions - Cuthbert, GA
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Glenfield, ND
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Hastings, NE
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Heathsville, VA
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Idaho Falls, ID
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - La Grande, OR
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Linwood, MI
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Maynard, MN
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - McCrory, AR
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Monette, AR
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - North Powder, OR
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Onarga, IL
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Senath, MO
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Sparta, MI
Nutrien Ag Solutions - Tarboro, NC
*Nutrien Ag Solutions - Wendell, ID
Valley Agronomics LLC - Mount Angel, OR
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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.