WASHINGTON--Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) applauds the passage of legislation, initiated by ARA, which will establish federal penalties for theft of anhydrous ammonia for producing the illicit drug methamphetamine. The federal legislation caps a two-year effort by ARA to address the growing problem of theft of anhydrous ammonia.

The provisions would impose felony penalties for theft or transport of anhydrous ammonia across state lines for use in the manufacture of methamphetamine. It also provides authorization of $500,000 to allow Iowa State University (ISU) to continue its research into the development of inert agents that would eliminate the usefulness of anhydrous ammonia as an ingredient in the production of methamphetamine. The legislation is expected to be signed by President Clinton.

Separately, ARA is working to secure the $500,000 in appropriations for ISU before Congress adjourns later this month. ARA had previously helped secure $250,000 in funding in 1999 that allowed ISU to begin its initial research.

"This legislation will help address the problem of meth traffickers who cross state lines to avoid states that have enacted tougher equipment tampering and theft penalties, said Paul E. Kindinger, president and CEO of ARA. "It also will assist the industry in moving closer to having another major deterrent to theft by hopefully having an ingredient that can be added to anhydrous ammonia, making it unpalatable in meth production. ARA assembled an industry task force in 1998 to address the growing problem of theft of anhydrous ammonia. Agronomically, ammonia is an efficient source of nitrogen. It is popular with farmers because it is the lowest cost form of nitrogen fertilizer available.

The ARA-led task force has taken several steps to deter theft of anhydrous ammonia from facilities or from farmers fields, including the development of a comprehensive communication and education program. ARA has also served as a clearinghouse to support state model legislation to provide liability protection to retailers from equipment tampering, and to make theft of anhydrous ammonia a felony. The task force investigated using an additive to ammonia to make the product unusable or undesirable for meth production, which led to the ISU research effort. Credit for the passage of the legislation also should be given to the Iowa Agribusiness Association, which lent its support and involvement to the successful efforts.

The Agricultural Retailers Association is a national trade organization providing a national voice for the retail sector of the agricultural industry. ARA is focused on issues and programs that affect the profitability and professionalism of its members.

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