Mixing 2 tons of ammonium nitrate with motor oil, Timothy McVeigh produced enough cheap, yet powerful explosive to destroy the Oklahoma City federal building more than 6 years ago. Along with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, these disasters may bring changes in the way you purchase fertilizer for your no-till fields.
After the Oklahoma bombing, there was considerable speculation that farmers would soon be required to have a license or would need to provide personal identification to buy fertilizer materials.
About 1.7 million tons of ammonium nitrate were sold last year. Still another problem for fertilizer dealers is the theft of anhydrous ammonia that can be used by drug dealers for making crystal “meth,” a potent form of methamphetamine. In addition, aerial applicators could soon see tougher rules to keep terrorists from stealing their airplanes in efforts to spread biochemical warfare.
About 3 years ago, the National Academy of Sciences recommended the sale of packaged ammonium nitrate be banned unless dealers required identification from buyers and kept accurate records. This report also laid out additional steps that should be taken if terrorism threats ever occurred, including placing chemical markers in fertilizer as an aid to bomb-sensing equipment. They also recommended that fertilizer dealers be licensed.
Yet little has been done due to considerable opposition to these ideas from agricultural groups and the fertility industry. Mary Anne Fox, a chemist who chaired the study, says the regulatory issues were considered to be very costly for American agriculture. But…