Ag retailers want supports to boost security

The national group representing retail-level dealers of farm inputs wants the federal government to help support the costs of elevated security.

“Public safety is a primary responsibility of the federal government and we need their help to secure the products that are critical to Canada’s agricultural economy,” David MacKay, executive director of the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers (CAAR), said in a release Friday.

Agricultural fertilizers and chemicals have been “misappropriated by terrorists and criminals who seek to use them as weapons or for illicit drug production,” the Winnipeg-based organization said in its release.

Fertilizer bombs have been used in attacks such as the bombing of a U.S. federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, using a combination of ammonium nitrate and motor fuel, killing over 150 people. And anhydrous ammonia fertilizer is known to have often been stolen for use in the illegal manufacture of crystal meth.

“Agri-retailers who undertake the marketing and stewardship of crop inputs are at a high risk of being targeted by these sinister elements and urgently call on the federal government to assist them with securing agricultural facilities in the interest of public safety and the protection of our nation’s food supply,” CAAR wrote.

“Canadian agri-retailers are prepared to do their part but should not be
expected to shoulder the entire burden of shielding the sector from terrorist
penetration,” MacKay said.

CAAR said its members’ retail counterparts in the U.S. already benefit from access to tax credits and grants for security upgrades at agribusiness facilities, such as perimeter fencing, computer access controls, video surveillance and security lighting.

“Agriculture is a global market and Canadian producers now find themselves at a competitive disadvantage because they must pick up the tab for security costs that have nothing to do with crop production,” MacKay said.

Given such supports in the U.S., he said, Canada could thus “be exposed as the weak link in terms of implementing common-sense anti-terrorist measures.”

Individual MPs and Commons and Senate standing committees have endorsed CAAR’s proposal to partner with government on security protocols, but the group said its plan has “yet to receive the blessing of the prime minister or his cabinet.”

CAAR also cited “ample” precedents for such federal investment, listing a marine security contribution program for Canadian ports and $350 million to tighten security at major airports.

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