For farmers and ranchers, upholding one’s duty to defend and protect the liberties and ideals for which our nation stands is not a choice, but rather a debt owed by all Americans.

This patriotic spirit has been engrained in rural agricultural communities since the birth of our nation. Even today, more than 44 percent of all U.S. military troops boast rural roots.

America’s farmers and ranchers have always demonstrated unwavering commitment to protecting our nation from threats both foreign and domestic.

And, as the U.S. faces the growing threat of individual acts of terrorism, farmers are honoring their national duty by supporting Department of Homeland Security regulations on ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer used to provide essential nutrients to crops.

While many farmers and ranchers have transitioned away from ammonium nitrate, the compound is still used as a nitrogen source for many crops, particularly in warmer climates.

However, in the right concentrations ammonium nitrate can be added to explosive devices to increase the magnitude of explosions.

Ammonium nitrate was used in several terrorist attacks including the 2005 London underground bombings, and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 innocent U.S. citizens and cost the U.S. $1.35 billion.

In 2007, new legislation instructed DHS to step up existing efforts to protect the nation from the potential misuse of ammonium nitrate.

Earlier this summer DHS announced initial steps creating the Ammonium Nitrate Security Program. Unlike previous DHS programs focused primarily on security at high-risk chemical facilities, ANSP is designed to increase controls and monitoring of sales, purchases and transfers of the product.

Required to register

Purchasers, sellers and individuals involved in the transfer of ammonium nitrate products containing 30 percent or more of the compound by weight would be required to register for approval by DHS.

The registration process is estimated to take about two hours and will require a payment every five years (based on volume purchased) that the agency estimates would average from under $100 to $832 for farm use.

Purchasers who use ammonium nitrate, but never come in direct contact with it are not required to register. According to DHS, the program will be cost-effective if it prevents just one attack the same size of the Oklahoma City bombing every 14 years.

In keeping with farmers’ and ranchers’ commitment to protecting our great nation, Farm Bureau is working to support efforts that help further secure ammonium nitrate. This includes requiring individuals making purchases to show positive identification and increased agency oversight of sales, provided undue burdens are not placed on farmers, fertilizer distributors and dealers.

Farmers and ranchers are proud to produce agricultural products to meet the growing global demand for food. Now more than ever, it is important that we provide our farmers and ranchers with every tool at our disposal.

However, we must also keep in mind that the risk of ammonium nitrate being used to commit acts of terror is real. The new standards will allow farmers and ranchers to assist DHS in monitoring ammonium nitrate, while still ensuring the product is available for agricultural production.

While national security must come first, food security is equally important in ensuring the success of our nation and its economy. Through the combined efforts of both DHS and our farmers and ranchers, we can achieve balance between the two.

(Michael Pettengill is a public relations intern at the American Farm Bureau Federation).