Pubdate: Tue, 10 Oct 2006
Source: Des Moines Register (IA)
Copyright: 2006 The Des Moines Register.
Author: Jerry Perkins, Register Farm Editor
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


A chemical that will prevent methamphetamine makers from using 
anhydrous ammonia as a raw material for the drug will be added to the 
widely used nitrogen fertilizer, state officials said Monday.

Marvin Van Haaften, director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control 
Policy, said the chemical, known as calcium nitrate, can be added to 
each of the 26,000 tanks used in Iowa for the application of anhydrous ammonia.

The discovery of the inhibitor has national and international 
implications because of the widespread use of methamphetamine, he said.

Gov. Tom Vilsack hailed the discovery as a way to make Iowa's 
communities safer.

"The message to all those who are interested in making meth is, 
'don't bother,' " Vilsack said. "This will reduce to zero the meth 
that is cooked in Iowa."

Ninety percent of meth used in Iowa is imported from other states or 
Mexico, Van Haaften said, but discovery of the inhibitor will be a 
serious barrier for Iowa-based meth makers.

Farmers use anhydrous ammonia to fertilize fields for corn. Locks 
have been installed on many anhydrous tanks, but they still have been 
broken into by meth makers.

Iowa State University chemistry professors George Kraus and John 
Verkade discovered adding calcium nitrate to anhydrous ammonia tanks 
renders the fertilizer useless as a meth ingredient.

The chemists researched the question for six years, using $1.2 
million in federal money secured by U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., and 
Charles Grassley, R-Ia.

Harkin also credited U.S. Reps. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., and Steve 
King, R-Ia., for their work in the House of Representatives for 
securing the money.

"It was an accidental discovery," Verkade said.

Kraus said the two chemists worked with John Whipple of the Iowa 
Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to find a chemical 
that would be effective and environmentally benign.

Calcium nitrate, which is another form of nitrogen fertilizer, fits 
both requirements, he said.

The fertilizer is made by Yara, a Norwegian-based company.

Ross Johnson, national sales manager for Yara North America, said the 
company imports about 200,000 tons a year of calcium nitrate into the 
United States.

Dave Coppess of Heartland Cooperative said adding calcium nitrate to 
anhydrous ammonia at a rate of 9 gallons a ton costs about $1 to $1.50 an acre.

It will be difficult to add the meth inhibitor to all the anhydrous 
ammonia tanks in Iowa this fall, when many farmers like to apply 
fertilizer, Coppess said, but it can be done by spring.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman