SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a new grant program to help Illinois agricultural fertilizer dealers protect their product from thieves involved in the illicit production of methamphetamine. The $1.6 million initiative will provide grants to facilities to install locks on anhydrous ammonia tanks, to purchase video surveillance cameras or to blend approved additives into their anhydrous ammonia to render it useless for the production of methamphetamine. Anhydrous ammonia, a farm fertilizer, is a key ingredient in manufacturing methamphetamine, or meth.
"The dangers associated with meth go well beyond the user – the process of making the drug puts families, neighbors and even entire communities at risk," said Gov. Blagojevich. "This initiative is one more tool in the state’s arsenal to combat the spread of a very dangerous drug. We worked together with legislators, the fertilizer and chemical industry, law enforcement and others to develop this program that will prevent drug makers and users from stealing fertilizer to make methamphetamine."
"The theft of anhydrous ammonia has affected nearly every fertilizer dealer in the state, many of whom have suffered losses in the thousands of dollars due to damage to their equipment and facilities and had to expend extra effort to mitigate the possibility of ammonia releases due to theft and clean up meth lab waste left at their facilities," Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, said. "These funds will help our ammonia dealers further protect their facilities and ensure that we can continue to safely provide this important nitrogen fertilizer to the farmers of Illinois."
The Illinois Department of Agriculture will administer the program. It plans to award grants in both the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007. The awards are timed to coincide with the seasonal application of anhydrous fertilizer. The grants will reimburse facilities for up to two-thirds of the cost of their security improvements.
The first grants will target 21 counties in west central Illinois where methamphetamine was first discovered in the state. Those counties are: Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Fulton, Greene, Hancock, Henderson, Jersey, Macoupin, Mason, McDonough, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott and Warren. In the spring, projects from throughout the state will be considered for funding.
Applications for the grants to be awarded this fall are due Oct. 2. The due date for funding next spring is Feb. 1. Application forms and materials can be obtained by calling the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Ag Products Inspection at (217) 782-3817 or visiting the agency’s website at www.agr.state.il.us.
“These grants will have important safety benefits, too,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. “The additives, for example, typically contain a pigment that will help agrichemical dealers more rapidly detect leaks in their tanks. And, in deterring thefts, the tank locks also may prevent hazardous spills that could endanger agchem dealers and their employees, neighboring farmers, police, emergency first responders and potentially even the general public.”
The department, in cooperation with Illinois State Police, the Illinois Attorney General’s office and Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, has scheduled a series of five outreach meetings to explain the program and application process to anhydrous facilities and raise awareness about the dangers of methamphetamine. The first meeting will be held Aug. 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Department of Agriculture building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Subsequent meetings are scheduled Aug. 30 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Gillespie Town Hall; Aug. 31 from 9 to 11 a.m. in Quincy in the basement of the Adams County Farm Bureau Building; Aug. 31 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the community room at Macomb City Hall and Sept. 4 in Jerseyville. Neither the site nor time of the Jerseyville meeting has been confirmed yet.
In addition to establishing the anhydrous ammonia security grant program, Gov. Blagojevich has taken several actions to make it harder for meth producers to obtain ingredients and to stiffen criminal penalties for manufacturers, dealers and users:
He created six Meth Response Teams to relieve the burden on local drug task forces and Metropolitan Enforcement Groups resulting from an increase in meth-related cases. In their first year of operation, the teams handled 750 meth-related incidents, made 653 arrests and seized nearly 213,000 grams of drugs and materials used to manufacture methamphetamine.
He signed the "Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act", one of the most significant statutes enacted to address meth. The act, which took effect Jan. 15, 2006, designates pseudoephedrine as a Schedule V substance. It restricts the retail sale of pseudoephedrine-containing products to pharmacists or pharmacist technicians and requires purchasers of pseudoephedrine-containing products to show identification and sign a log.
The Governor established a statewide methamphetamine offender registry in Illinois for people convicted under the "Participation in Methamphetamine Manufacturing" statute. The bill requires the Illinois State Police to establish, maintain, and publish (via the Internet) the registry, tracking reversals of convictions and court orders requiring the sealing or expungement of records relating to reportable offenses.
The Governor signed a law that creates a new offense of meth trafficking for individuals who knowingly bring methamphetamine or its precursors or cause methamphetamine or its precursors to be brought into Illinois with the intent to make, deliver, or sell meth. The new law will prevent meth manufacturers from trying to get around Illinois’ tough restrictions on access to pseudoephedrine by going to other states for meth ingredients. The offense carries a penalty of no less than double the minimum and double the maximum sentence for selling meth or possessing its precursors with the intent to make meth, which is based on the quantity involved.
And, the Governor created a Methamphetamine Law Enforcement Fund, which assesses a $100 fine on top of other fines and sentences for anyone found guilty of a drug-related offense involving possession or delivery of meth. The additional $100 is deposited into a fund used to reimburse local law enforcement agencies for the cost of securing and cleaning up sites and facilities used for the illegal manufacture of meth, and to defray the costs of employing fulltime or part time peace officers, and the costs associated with medical or dental expenses incurred by the county resulting from the incarceration of meth addicts in county jails or corrections facilities.