It seemed fitting somehow that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made his highly-anticipated visit to see House Speaker Paul Ryan on the day Southern Crop Production Association members and allies made their annual Capitol Hill lobbying visits.
While Trump and Speaker Ryan probably spent little, if any, time discussing agriculture or crop protection chemicals, the fact 2016 is an election year is having a decided impact on what’s happening with those topics in Washington, according to SCPA and CropLife America leaders.
“Where we are with the big picture is this: We’re in an election year, a presidential election year,” said Jeff Cassady, executive vice president of SCPA. “We have a president who’s nearing the end of his term who’s probably looking to establish whatever legacy he’s going to have. And there are probably some issues he ran on that have not been fully accomplished.”
Staff members with CropLife America, the organization which represents the nation’s farm chemical manufacturers, say this feeling is manifesting itself in some of the actions being taken by the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency.
“As an industry, we’ve always had a pretty good give and take with EPA,” said Cassady. “It’s give or take, and it’s better at some times than others, but we’ve always had a good working relationship. Right now we’re struggling with that.”
Staying in the FIFRA box
“These are the waning months of the Obama administration, and the relationship we used to enjoy with EPA over many different administrations over many decades has always been one where we had a good working relationship,” said Beau Greenwood, executive vice president for government relations and public affairs.
“It doesn’t mean we always agreed on every single issue, but as long as agency decisions were made within the FIFRA box, within the four corners of FIFRA, we expected to win some, and we expect to lose some, and that’s part of being a regulated business. The challenge for us is when those agency decisions get outside those four corners of FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act).”
In the last 12 to 18 months, CropLife America and other organizations have “begun to connect the dots,” he said, “To build a sufficiently long grievance list so that we can go to those people that will listen and make a case for an agency operating beyond the bounds of FIFRA, beyond the bounds of congressional intent with respect to pesticide regulation.”
As a result, the briefing papers members of the SCPA and allied organizations took to their congressional offices specifically asked members to work with the committees of jurisdiction to “fairly assess and reasonably protect the rigorous science-based and transparent processes established under FIFRA, including the risk-based review of pesticides prescribed in the federal law.”
“The time for us to act is now, and the timing of your trip to D.C. couldn’t be any better for us,” said Greenwood. “For the past seven years, we have fought pesticide one-off battles, whether it be pesticides and the Clean Water Act or pesticides and the Endangered Species Act, and, despite our best efforts, our generally constructive relationship with our regulator in the last year or so has deteriorated to one of antagonism and truly political pawns.
'Nothing you can do'
“When we meet with EPA, they essentially tell us there is nothing you can do to stop us, and for the most part they’ve been right. Why? It’s because this Congress has proven itself completely ineffective in terms of forging a consensus and moving forward.”
While some might question what CropLife America and pro-conventional pesticide support groups can accomplish in the last seven months of the Obama administration that they haven’t accomplished in the last seven years, Greenwood says “It’s critical that we try.
“We’re concerned about the level of regulatory action coming out of the agency that will significantly and forever alter pesticide regulation, and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Besides FIFRA, the 50 industry representatives who participated in the Capitol Hill visits also discussed:
- The Clean Water Act and NPDES permits
- Pollinator health
- The Endangered Species Act and the lack of a consulting process between EPA and the National Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Services
- GMO food labeling
During the day-long visits, the representatives met with members of the House and Senate and their staffs from 11 southern states.
For more information on CropLife America and pesticide regulation, visit http://www.croplifeamerica.org/.