January 16th, 2015

At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world.

The paper contends that we have already crossed four “planetary boundaries.” They include the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean.

“What the science has shown is that human activities — economic growth, technology, consumption – are destabilizing the global environment,” said Will Steffen, who holds appointments at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center and is the lead author of the paper.

These are not future problems, but rather urgent matters, according to Steffen, who said that the economic boom since 1950 and the globalized economy have accelerated the transgression of the boundaries. No one knows exactly when push will come to shove, but he said the possible destabilization of the “Earth System” as a whole could occur in a time frame of “decades out to a century.”

The researchers focused on nine separate planetary boundaries first identified by scientists in a 2009 paper. These boundaries set theoretical limits on changes to the environment, and include ozone depletion, freshwater use, ocean acidification, atmospheric aerosol pollution and the introduction of exotic chemicals and modified organisms.

Beyond each planetary boundary is a “zone of uncertainty.” This zone is meant to acknowledge the inherent uncertainties in the calculations, and to offer decision-makers a bit of a buffer, so that they can potentially take action before it’s too late to make a difference. Beyond that zone of uncertainty is the unknown — planetary conditions unfamiliar to us."

Read more from The Washington Post.

January 7th, 2015

"The Asmark Institute announced the ResponsibleAg Auditor Training Course has received recognition from the Board of Environmental, Health and Safety Auditor Certifications (BEAC).  The course is designed specifically for auditors who intend to perform facility assessments under the ResponsibleAg Certification Program.  BEAC’s recognition of the course is based on a comprehensive evaluation of course content, training materials, course environment and instructor qualifications.  The ResponsibleAg Auditor Training Course joins other training programs recognized by BEAC such as the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care®, SOCMA’s ChemStewards and The Auditing Roundtable courses.

Brian Miller, CPEA and Compliance Assurance Specialist with Agrium and Fred Whitford, Ph.D., Coordinator of Purdue University Pesticide Programs, are the lead instructors for the course.  Together they bring fifty years of EHS experience backed by more than seventy years of experience in agriculture.  “We couldn’t be more pleased than to be working with instructors of this caliber,” said Billy Pirkle, Chairman of ResponsibleAg.  “They are each nationally recognized for their work within, and on behalf of the agricultural industry.”

At the heart of the ResponsibleAg initiative is the goal of providing accurate and credible assessments consistently across the entire group of carefully trained and credentialed ResponsibleAg auditors.  Each auditor must successfully complete this course before applying for credentials under the ResponsibleAg Certification Program."

Read more from Ag Professional.

January 2nd, 2015

"The eighth annual One Acre Fund gala at Navy Pier's Grand Ballroom attracted more than 300 guests Dec. 11. Co-founded by Andrew Youn and John Gachunga in 2006, One Acre Fund's mission is to supply small farmers in Africa with the tools and financing they need to grow their way out of hunger and poverty.

The evening honored the Combe family, longtime One Acre Fund supporters, with the 2014 Farmers' Humanitarian Award. Patriarch Christopher B. Combe accepted the award along with his wife, Courtney, on behalf of their family. "This organization has directly taken more than a million people out of extreme poverty and starvation to where they can live relatively normal lives. For centuries, they've been starving," he said.

During the cocktail reception and silent auction, guests bid on native African items that included Rwandan art carvings, Senegalese woven baskets and bracelets, Ghanan ceramics and stuffed toy animals from Kenya made from local plant materials. A small tree held holiday ornaments, crafted from banana leaves by Kenyan and Ugandan artisans, that could be purchased for $20. This "banana fiber art" is a cottage industry that brings fair trade income to rural communities."

Read more Chicago Tribune

December 31st, 2014

"At the start of the new year, many of us make a resolution — usually to do something better. My FFAA resolution for 2015 is to raise awareness of the resolutions already adopted and in place by the Florida agchem industry regarding regulatory compliance and workplace safety.

The unsung heroes in this industry are those whose everyday commitment to safety and security means growers continue to have access to essential crop inputs, which help them grow better. These professionals never waver in their resolution to safeguard their coworkers and communities.

Their daily work is guided by many memorable mantras:

  • Safety never takes a holiday.

  • Safety doesn’t happen by accident.

  • Know safety, no injury. No safety, know injury.

  • Safety isn’t expensive, it’s priceless.

  • Safety is as simple as ABC: Always Be Careful.

FFAA focused on greater participation with Local Emergency Planning Councils (LEPC) in 2014. Member companies stepped up and worked with emergency responders to host site visits and a LEPC training exercise.

Ramping Up Responsibility

In 2015, FFAA is focusing its efforts to promote safety and security by encouraging its members to participate in ResponsibleAg. What is ResponsibleAg? A visit to its website,, tells you the following and more."

Read more from Growing Produce.

December 29th, 2014

"The FINANCIAL -- Sinofert Holdings Limited, China’s one of the largest fertilizer producers and distributors, has transformed its business with new mobile apps to help hundreds of millions of farmers across the country increase crop yields such as rice, wheat or soybeans, according to IBM.

China’s agriculture and food supply chain is critical for the country’s stability and contribution to global food markets. Therefore, it’s important that farmers avoid disruptions – including access to fertilizer – that could negatively impact production of vital crops.

To continue to grow its business and remain competitive, Sinofert needed a more efficient system to service its massive sales and distribution network. Key to that growth was investing in mobile technologies to help its sales force improve decision making from the field, better anticipate demand, and offer customers more relevant products and services. Sinofert’s network includes 17 branch offices, nearly 1,700 sales outlets, more than 600 transit warehouses and 2,100 distribution centers, according to IBM."

Read more from The Financial.

December 8th, 2014

"It is often said that a house is only as strong as the foundation upon which it sits. The same may be said for the importance of soils in keeping our agricultural sector productive, sustainable and resilient.

Soils are the cornerstone of our food chain, yet they receive scant attention or recognition for the role they play. For this reason, the United Nations has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils – to raise awareness while coordinating various sectors’ efforts to research and care for soils.

Perhaps nowhere else than in Africa is this issue of soil more important. More than 70 percent of the African population relies on agriculture in some way for their livelihoods, and its growth has the potential to catalyze much broader development goals – from reducing poverty and hunger to improving health and nutritional status.

Africa has 60 percent of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land, yet Africa’s soils are in crisis. It is estimated that 65 percent of arable land is degraded by eroding topsoil or depleted nutrients from “unhealthy” farming practices. The economic loss from these nutrient losses are estimated to be worth the equivalent of $4 billion annually in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

In a continent whose population is predicted to add almost one billion additional people by the year 2030, our soils present a strategic natural resource for nations. African countries are at a critical point in their development where they can harness – as most other developed countries have already done – agriculture’s role in driving economic prosperity.

This agricultural transformation in Africa will require both smallholder farmers as well as commercial farmers to symbiotically work together. More critically, it will also require the commitment of African political leaders to live up to the commitments they made in the 2003 Maputo Declaration, where they adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as a framework for the restoration of agriculture growth and food security and where they further pledged to increase budget allocations to agriculture to 10 percent of GDP expenditure."

Read more from Business Day

December 1st, 2014

African leaders and farmers need to launch an agricultural revolution to eradicate hunger and malnutrition on the continent within a lifetime.

This is a new campaign by IFA and its partners in conjunction with the FAO 2014 International Year of Family Farming and the African Union 2014 Year of Agriculture.

View the video on YouTube.

Read more from International Fertilizer Industry Association.

Read more from International Fertilizer Industry Association. - See more at:

Read more from International Fertilizer Industry Association. - See more at:
November 17th, 2014

"Executive Summary:

On April 17, 2013, ten emergency first responders (ranging in age from 26 to 52 and all male) were killed when a burning fertilizer plant containing an estimated 40 to 60 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded just outside the city limits. The explosion occurred less than 20 minutes after the emergency responders arrived on-scene. The victims included 5 volunteer fire fighters with the city’s volunteer fire department, and 4 volunteer fire fighters from 3 neighboring volunteer fire departments who were attending an emergency medical services (EMS) class in the city. One off-duty career fire captain and two civilians who responded to offer assistance to the volunteer fire department were also killed by the explosion. The victims were among a number of first responders engaged in fire suppression and support activities and were in close proximity to the burning structure when the explosion occurred. Five other volunteer fire fighters with the city’s fire department were injured. The two civilians were providing non-suppression support to the fire department when they were killed by the blast. Three civilians living nearby also died as the result of the blast.

Contributing Factors
•Non-recognition of the hazards associated with ammonium nitrate
•Limited pre-incident planning of commercial facility
•Fire quickly spread to an un-controllable size
•Approximately 40-60 tons of solid ammonium nitrate unexpectedly detonated
•Responders working within blast radius at time of explosion
•Large non-sprinklered, wood construction, commercial structure."

Read more from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

November 10th, 2014

"The Asmark Institute hosted a dedication ceremony to commemorate the launch of the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture on October 27 in Owensboro, KY. Named after the former President of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), who retired in 2013 after 34 years of service to TFI, the facility will be used as a national training and education center for personnel employed in the agricultural nutrient industry.


“Ford B. West is known throughout the U.S. for his impeccable integrity, tireless work ethic and an inherent ability to quickly dissect complicated issues into a simple plan of action,” said Allen Summers, President of the Asmark Institute. “It is very fitting that we honor him by creating a first-of-its-kind learning center that advances safety and compliance for the ag industry.”

Among other programs planned for the new facility will be the training of auditors to implement ResponsibleAg, an industry-led effort to assist agricultural retailers with compliance on a myriad of federal environmental, health, safety and security regulations."

Read more from Crop Life.

October 13th, 2014

"In Kenya, where he works with small farmers, Daniel Maingi “failed miserably” in his attempts to connect with agricultural organizations funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

So he and fellow African activists from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia are bringing their message to Seattle, headquarters of the world’s richest philanthropy. At a Town Hall event Sunday, The Global Struggle for Food Sovereignty, they will argue that the foundation’s push for a “Green Revolution” in Africa is a flawed attempt to impose industrial agriculture at the expense of more ecologically sound approaches to farming.

Some of the visitors, including Maingi, will meet with staff at the Gates Foundation. But it won’t be the high-level gathering he had hoped for.

“At least we tried,” Maingi said.

The Gates Foundation spends nearly $400 million a year on programs to improve production and income for African farmers. Since 2006, the foundation has funneled nearly $420 million to its flagship agricultural initiative, a collaboration called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, or AGRA.

But the foundation’s outsized spending and influence have raised concerns in Africa, just as some American educators have become alarmed over the foundation’s influence on the U.S. education system.

“It’s important that these voices be heard,” said Heather Day, of Seattle-based AGRA Watch/Community Alliance for Global Justice, an organizer of the Town Hall event and a five-day summit between African and American organizations seeking to persuade the Gates Foundation to change course.

While the goal of helping African farmers is laudable, the “Green Revolution” approach is based on Western-style agriculture, with its reliance on fertilizer, weed killers and single crops, such as corn, Maingi said.

But much of Africa is so dry that it’s not suited for thirsty crops, and heavy use of fertilizer kills worms and microbes important for soil health. “The model of farming in the West is not appropriate for farming in most of Africa,” Maingi said."

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