Congress proposes new regulations on the sale of fertilizer

Published 6 October 2006

Bill would force buyers to provide identification and require sellers to register with DHS or an appropriate state agency; a number of states already have similar laws intended to stymie another Timothy McVeigh; Farm Bureau continues to resist federal intrusion

Current law stinks! That is the message this week from counterterrorism experts and congressmen on both sides of the aisle on the failure of the government to restrict the sale of fertlizer. Ammonium nitrate was a key component of the 2.4 ton truck bomb used by Timothy McVeigh in 1995 to bring down the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, but industry officials have so far effectively stymied all serious efforts to regulate and monitor sales. “Time is of the essence,” said Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pennsylvania). “This has been a material of choice in terrorist acts.” Indeed, just four months ago Canadian authorities arrested seventeen al Qaeda-types trying to get their hands on three tons of the material. None of the men, it should be mentioned, were in the farming business.

Although a number of states have regulated sales by requiring buyers to provide identification or go through background checks, and by requiring sellers to report large, suspicious purchases, efforts at the federal level have fallen prey to determined industry lobbyists at the Farm Bureau. Their argument, as familiar as it is predictable, is that regulation will increase costs, which will in turn hurt the American consumer. A new bill, sponsored by congressmen Weldon and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is sure to upset them even more. According to USA Today, the bill would:

—Require producers and sellers of ammonium nitrate to register with the Homeland Security Department or a state agency, keep sales records for three years, and report any unexplained loss or theft within 24 hours

—Make buyers provide name, address and phone number, and show ID

—Allow sellers to refuse to sell ammonium nitrate to anyone who behaves suspiciously

-read more in Mimi Hall’s USAToday report