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Deterring Theft of Anhydrous Ammonia


Security: It's an issue important to all agricultural retailers. From the theft of high-value chemicals to the diappearance of ammonium nitrate, it's a problem retailers have faced in the past.

Now there is a new security threat - the theft of anhydrous ammonia for use in making a powerful, illegal narcotic called methamphetamine. Naturally, we are outraged by the illegal and illicit use of our products. We want to play a role in preventing abuse in the future. By raising awareness and knowing how to respond, ag retailers and farmers can assist law enforcement in combating this illicit use of a product important to U.S. farmers.

What Is Methamphetamine? Methamphetamine, or meth, is a powerful central nervous system stimulant with ahigh potential for abuse and dependence. It is illegally produced and sold in pill form, capsules, powder and chunks. One simple recipe for making meth, already available on the Internet, requires several commonly available precursors, including anhydrous ammonia. The drug can be made in a makeshift "lab" that can fit into a suitcase. Very small amounts of ammonia are needed.

Signs of Theft
Thieves typically use small, makeshift containers to store ammonia that is drained out of nurse tanks or tool bars with hoses.

  • Notice if the ground has been disturbed around tanks. Watch for fresh tracks in mud or snow.
  • Notice if valves are not closed tightly. Sometimes a valve works loose, but sometimes it is a sign of tampering.
  • Look for suspicious items left near tanks, like duct tape, garden hoses, bicycle inner tubes, buckets or coolers. Thieves will leave these materials behind when scared off.
  • Look for broken or missing wire ties or seals that you can place on valve wheels as a marker.
  • Do not disturb a crime scene.
  • Immediately call your local law enforcement officials.

How to Respond to Suspicious Activity

  • Call local law enforcement authorities
  • DO NOT approach or confront suspicious individuals. If under the influence of meth, they can become dangerously violent with little warning.
  • Make employees and customers aware of the theft problem.
  • Store tanks in a well-lit or high traffic area.
  • Store tanks with flow valves facing toward the drive lane to speed visual inspections.
  • Do not leave tanks in fields or remote areas.
  • Inspect tanks visually first thing each morning. Many thefts occur over the weekend.
  • Remove hoses and store them separately. There is enough ammonia ina standard decoupling hose to make meth.
  • Block the driveway with a gate or barricade.
  • Place brightly colored plastic ties or wire seals between the valve wheel and the roll cage to ease visual checks.
  • Know inventory. Record stored nurse tanks by identification number and weight of remaining product.
  • Work with local law enforcement personnel on security steps and encourage frequent nighttime patrols.
  • Be suspicious of those attempting to buy ammonia if they cannot state a legitimate, agronomic need for the product.

How to Deter Theft on Farms

  • Have tanks delivered as close to the time of application as possible. Don't leave tanks unattended for long periods of time.
  • Position tanks in open areas where they can be seen from the roadway.
  • Return tanks immediately after use.
  • Do not store tanks and tool bars inside buildings or near the farmhouse or livestock confinement houses.
  • Inspect and record the condition of each nurse tank upon delivery and return.

In Summary...
By raising the awareness and taking some easy, common-sense steps, we can deter the theft of ammonia for illicit purposes and protect its safe, legal and intended use. Please contact the Agricultural Retailers Association (800-844-4900), The Fertilizer Institute (202-675-8250) or the California Plant Health Association (916-446-3316) for further information.

In addition, posters and brochures focusing on the need for increased awareness are now available, free of charge, from TFI (202) 962-0490. These materials are part of “Be Secure for America," an industry/government initiative to ensure fertilizer products are used as intended. The program, co-sponsored by The Fertilizer Institute, The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials and the Agricultural Retailers Association publicizes a toll free number (800/800-3855) for use in reporting suspicious activity.





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