Leading Industry Safety and Compliance: Grow West VP Ends Tenure with ResponsibleAg
ResponsibleAg’s origins and work
After a tragedy at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas in 2013, the agriculture industry recognized the need for an organization to help ag retailers stay in compliance with ever-changing regulations and maintain safe, productive facilities.
Formed by members of the Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer institute, ResponsibleAg provides ag retailers and farm operators services that help them operate safely and stay on top of regulatory compliance. And Grow West has been a key player since ResponsibleAg’s inception.
“We had some very good partners in laying the groundwork for the program that provides regulatory resources for chemical and fertilizer dealers across the U.S.,” said Dave Ito, Grow West Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Safety, and a charter board member fundamental in the formation and development of ResponsibleAg. “I got involved after the West, Texas, fertilizer explosion but a group was working on regulatory compliance issues for retailers before that. We worked to build a program that can help ag retailers stay ahead of regulatory compliance requirements.”
As part of the ResponsibleAg program, an audit checklist helps each ag retailer ensure he or she is meeting all regulatory requirements. ResponsibleAg staff and board members keep a close eye on both current and expected future regulations to prevent any surprises. This is accomplished by routine annual reviews of the audit checklist.
“The audit checklist is reviewed annually to ensure all regulations and reference documents are current, if any changes occur to regulations, or if there are any new ones. We try to make it an encompassing document to help members meet the expectations of an ag retailer from a regulatory standpoint,” Ito said. “ResponsibleAg has a technical committee comprised of knowledgeable experts from the ag chemical and fertilizer industry who have regulatory roles within the fertilizer industry. The technical committee discusses new and evolving regulations on the horizon that may impact the industry.”
Since he began working with ResponsibleAg, Ito has been able to directly connect his role with Grow West — and his value promise to grower-customers — to the group’s work in the regulatory arena. He’s been able to integrate his state’s regulation into ResponsibleAg’s work, ultimately helping ensure the Grow West team has industry-leading compliance training. That translates to safe facilities and uninterrupted service for grower-customers.
“California regulations are incorporated into our national compliance audit checklists,” Ito said. “It adds an extra layer of confidence for our customers to know our facility managers are up to date with regulatory compliance.”
How ResponsibleAg helps ag retailers stay safe and compliant
ResponsibleAg certifies auditors after they go through rigorous training to ensure they are experts in ag retail regulation and everything retailers must do to operate safely and stay in compliance. With regulation always changing and evolving for ag retailers across the country — especially in Grow West’s territory in California — ResponsibleAg offers major value to members who can maintain uninterrupted operations by staying in compliance and operating safely.
“Auditors are graded on their performance at a facility designed in the same model as today’s modern ag chemical and fertilizer facilities,” Ito said. “Some of the training involves scenarios where facilities and processes purposefully cause problems. It’s designed to enable auditors to identify any potential problems.”
While the ResponsibleAg audit process helps ag retailers stay safe and in compliance today, its long-term goal is for participants to become self-reliant with regulation that Ito said he believes will continue to increase in coming years.
“The real intent of this program is for people to regulate themselves, or self-police,” he said. “The ResponsibleAg audit process is designed to take the guesswork out of staying in compliance and take the surprises out of what needs to be done and how to take care of your business.”
Given the term limit set for ResponsibleAg board members, Ito recently cycled off the group after serving since its 2014 inception. While Ito’s term limit may have ended with Responsible Ag, he is committed to continuing the effort of prevention and compliance within Grow West and he’s optimistic about the role of ResponsibleAg in helping ag retailers maintain safe, compliant operations well into the future.
“I’m proud of what we built, and I know ResponsibleAg will continue to keep the industry up to speed with safety awareness and compliance requirements.”