"Using anhydrous ammonia to make methamphetamine, or 'meth,' is a serious problem in rural areas," says Shutske. "Farmers and fertilizer dealers need to take specific, proactive steps to control access to their ammonia."

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant drug, Shutske points out. "On the illicit black market, a small container of stolen anhydrous ammonia can bring upwards of $200-300 per gallon," he adds. "This is comparable to what the farmer pays per ton. So there's a strong incentive to steal anhydrous."

A common strategy thieves use is to find unsecured nurse tanks and storage facilities where they can bleed off a few gallons of anhydrous into an empty gas grill container or other storage device.

Shutske says the Fertilizer Institute recommends that farmers and fertilizer dealers watch for:

  • Partially opened tank valves and/or leaking tanks;
  • Items that might be left behind after a theft, including buckets, coolers, duct tape, garden hoses and bicycle inner tubes;
  • The presence of unfamiliar or suspicious-looking individuals during daylight hours. Thieves often check out a property beforehand

Other signs of meth labs include strong odors, blacked-out windows (to obstruct observation) and large amounts of trash.

The Fertilizer Institute has prepared a one-page flyer titled "You, too, Can Work for a Drug Free America: Keep Anhydrous Ammonia Safe and Secure!" The flyer provides detailed information and control measures farmers and fertilizer retailers can use to keep anhydrous secure. The flyer can be accessed from The Fertilizer Institute's Web site at http://www.tfi.org.