Letter: A letter from David Hintzsche

By on May 24, 2013

I manage a local ag retail business. We provide the crop nutrients and crop protection products that enhance yields. The media attention and miscommunication that took place following the horrible tragedy in West, Texas, last month causes me concern.

Early on, some sources said that anhydrous ammonia was the cause of the explosion. Those of us in the ag industry know that anhydrous ammonia does not have explosive properties under a wide range of operating conditions, and certainly not to this magnitude.

We suspected the real culprit was ammonium nitrate, a product that hasn’t been used in Illinois or the Midwest for many years. Ammonium nitrate has been used as an explosive (in rock quarries, mines, etc.), but typically will not explode on its own, even in the presence of a fire, such as the circumstances in Texas. While the investigation is still pending, the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office recently announced that ammonium nitrate was indeed the likely cause of the devastating explosion in Texas.

Ag retailers in this region often sell growers anhydrous ammonia, a valuable source of nitrogen. While there are risks involved with the storage and handling of this product, OSHA and the Department of Transportation have strict rules, which we all must abide by in order to reduce the element of danger to our employees, customers and the general public.

Sometimes when people do not have the facts, they overreact. My goal in writing this letter is to assure people that the majority of ag retailers follow the laws, regulations and procedures set by our state and federal government. If they didn’t, they would be shut down.

Agriculture is the heart of the Midwest, and our country depends on its productivity every year in order to feed those of us fortunate enough to live here, and others around the world. Without crop nutrients, the yields of many widely used grains would greatly diminish. We cannot allow one very unfortunate incident to dictate the creation of more legislative rulings that could have a negative effect on our already frail economy. I ask that everyone learn the facts and urge our government officials to focus on enforcing the current regulations, rather than imposing new ones.

One final note: please exercise patience and caution when driving during this very busy planting season.

David Hintzsche
Hintzsche Fertilizer, Inc., Maple Park