4,000th ResponsibleAg Audit Completed at Rutherford Farmers Cooperative in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Sep 27 2021
ResponsibleAg, a voluntary and industry-led safety and stewardship initiative, reached another major milestone when the 4,000th facility audit was completed at Rutherford Farmers Cooperative in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a Tennessee Farmers Cooperative-affiliated facility.
Launched in 2014 as a joint venture of TFI and ARA, ResponsibleAg provides an audit and certification program to help participating locations ensure they comply with pertinent regulations from OSHA, DOT, EPA and DHS to keep employees, customers and communities safe.
Drew Landerman, environmental, health and safety specialist for Tennessee Farmers Cooperative (TFC) and a ResponsibleAg-credentialed auditor, conducted the 4,000th audit. “Reaching that milestone illustrates both the success and value of the program and shows there’s longevity in the program,” Landerman says. Rutherford Farmers Cooperative’s DeKalb County branch had the honor of being the 1,000th facility nationally to earn ResponsibleAg Certification in 2018.
According to Landerman, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative encouraged its member cooperatives to participate in ResponsibleAg from the start. “ResponsibleAg’s comprehensive audit checklist is regularly updated to reflect new regulations, so we don’t have to spend time creating our own. Instead, we can focus on educating not only the various managers but also employees at our ag retail sites on safety to help them better understand and meet safety regulations. We’ve found doing this, plus educating them about the ResponsibleAg program, increases employee ownership and pride in their workplace, which leads to fewer injuries, illnesses and citations.”
The ResponsibleAg audit encompasses up to 17 areas of operation, depending on the type of facility. For facilities in California, ResponsibleAg offers a checklist that includes state regulations. Following an audit, the facility receives a corrective action plan detailing how to resolve any issues identified. Once corrections are made, the facility achieves ResponsibleAg certification, which is good for three years. Recertification ensures personnel stay up to date on safe practices and facilities comply with new or updated rules and regulations.
Since the first ResponsibleAg audits were conducted in 2015, almost 130,000 compliance issues have been identified at participating facilities. While not all were considered major infractions, and some were only paperwork issues, a regulatory agency conducting an audit could cite a facility for any of them,” says Tim McArdle, longtime board member and retiring chairman of the ResponsibleAg Board of Directors. Nearly 96,000 issues have been resolved to date, and there’s been a steady decrease year over year in the number of issues identified, showing ag retail facilities are more engaged and aware of proper safety, security and environmental practices. “While that’s a good track record, our goal is to continue to improve those numbers,” McArdle adds.
There are 2,500+ facilities currently registered, many completing certification for the second time since the program began. McArdle says the goal of the program is for all registered facilities to be audited by a ResponsibleAg-credentialed auditor and to resolve all identified audit issues, with the ultimate goal of compliance with all federal regulations.
Resources to Help Participants Reach Compliance
ResponsibleAg offers various resources that make it easier for participating facilities to achieve compliance, including the online Compliance Assistance Library with concise summaries of regulatory standards pertinent to ag retailers, the Compliance Assessment Tool and EZ Search. McArdle adds that one of his future goals for the program is to explore developing a checklist for emissions and climate standards that the industry might have to abide by in the future. “If it does happen, ResponsibleAg wants to be prepared to continue to provide guidance and value by helping our members remain compliant with all regulations,” he says.
McArdle concludes, “Safety and compliance are at the heart of what ResponsibleAg does. The industry’s continuous commitment and strong participation show regulators that we place high importance on compliance and we are capable of self-regulating.”
For more information about the organization, the ResponsibleAg certification program or becoming a ResponsibleAg Credentialed Auditor, visit https://responsibleag.org.
About Agricultural Retailers Association
The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) is a nonprofit trade association representing the interests of retailers across the United States on legislative and regulatory issues on Capitol Hill. As the political voice of agricultural retailers, ARA not only represents its membership but also educates members on the political process and important issues affecting the industry. For more information on current legislative and regulatory issues impacting agricultural retailers, visit www.aradc.org.
ResponsibleAg, Inc., is a non-profit organization founded in 2014 to promote the public welfare by helping agribusinesses comply with federal environmental, health, safety and security rules related to the safe handling and storage of fertilizer and crop protection products. The organization provides participating businesses with a federal regulatory compliance assessment regarding the safe storage and handling of fertilizers, makes recommendations for corrective action where needed, and offers a robust suite of supporting resources. For more information, go to www.responsibleag.org.
About The Fertilizer Institute (TFI)
TFI is the leading voice of the fertilizer industry, acting as an advocate for fair regulation and legislation, a consistent source for trusted information and data, a networking agent, and an outlet to publicize industry initiatives in safety and environmental stewardship. For more information, go to www.tfi.org.