Loss Control on the Farm Reportedly Can Assist in the War on Drugs

October 10, 2003

As the result of a new Illinois Department of Agriculture regulation, Illinois farmers and insurers will reportedly be paying more attention to the safe use, handling, storage and disposal of anhydrous ammonia as part of the agriculture risk management process.

Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used in agricultural operations as a fertilizer. However, illegal drug makers reportedly steal the chemical from areas where it is stored or used because it is serves as a key ingredient in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

“The safe handling and theft of anhydrous ammonia is of great concern to rural communities due to the harmful effects that it can have on the environment if it is released into the air,” said Don Griffin, agricultural risk committee liaison and assistant vice president for the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII). “As farmers and insurers evaluate agricultural operations with the new regulations in mind, they will look more closely at steps that can be taken to prevent the accidental release of this chemical. In addition, they can take action to reduce the likelihood that theft will occur.”

The new regulation addresses the equipment and conditions under which anhydrous ammonia should be stored and transported. In addition, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation this year to help crackdown on individuals involved in the illegal and dangerous process of manufacturing methamphetamine.

One of the bills enacted expands the law that prohibits tampering with anhydrous ammonia equipment and containers to cover any
“attempts to vent” the substance. In Illinois alone, 666 meth labs were seized in 2002, many of which were located in central and southern Illinois.

“A recent theft of anhydrous ammonia resulted in a leak that led to the evacuation of two dozen families in rural Fountaintown, Indiana. To help prevent theft, farmers are putting up fences around the tanks and installing locks or other security devices. Taking these precautions along with other loss control measures that address the storage and use of other chemicals, the use of flammable materials, the theft of machinery and other equipment and the overall safety of the farm operation are important steps in the agricultural risk management process,” said Griffin.

The theft of anhydrous ammonia and clandestine meth labs in rural areas
continues to be a serious concern in the Midwest. Several states report to
the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency that methamphetamine is the primary drug
of concern.

In North Dakota the insurance commissioner, who’s department is responsible
for tank inspections, and the attorney general are establishing a pilot project
to deter theft. According to the attorney general, 203 meth labs have been
discovered in the state so far this year. Last year Iowa, which found more
than 700 meth labs, launched a tank-lock initiative designed to stem the
production of methamphetamine. The state received $200,000 in federal
funds for the project.

“With the current level of illegal methamphetamine production, farmers are
encouraged to closely monitor suspicious activity around their tanks,” said

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