Ammonium nitrate was cause of Texas explosion

San Antonio, Texas / Reuters / Investigators have determined that ammonium nitrate was the cause of the explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant that left 14 people dead and some 200 injured, a spokeswoman for the Texas state fire marshal’s office said May 7.

“The investigators have been able to narrow down the origin to the fertilizer and seed building on site, and we also know that what caused the explosion was the ammonium nitrate,” said Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office. “What we don’t know is exactly why.”

The fire marshal’s office has been leading the investigation of the April 17 blast, along with the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency (ATF).

Ammonium nitrate is a dry fertilizer mixed with other fertilizers such as phosphate and applied to crops to promote growth. It can be combustible under certain conditions, and was used as an ingredient in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that left 168 people dead.

Argentine farmers protest export tax

buenos aires / reuters The number of grain trucks entering Argentina’s main shipping hub of Rosario dropped sharply last Monday as farmers protested government policies by refusing to sell recently harvested corn and soybeans.

The Argentine government puts a 35 per cent tax on soybean exports and curbs overseas shipments of corn and wheat to ensure ample domestic food supplies. Growers say the curbs reduce profits by cutting competition among the exporters who bid for the crops.

The protest threatened to slow the loading of cargo ships waiting along the Parana and La Plata rivers for corn needed to replenish global reserves left thin by last year’s poor U.S. harvest.

The Rosario grains exchange said 553 trucks entered port by mid-morning on Monday, compared with 3,561 during the same time frame a week earlier.

The strike was to continue until Wednesday at midnight. But growers said more and longer protests might be needed to pressure the government into negotiating policy changes. Farm sector leaders are set to meet June 25 to decide what is next.

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