Eric Wintemute has worked inside the world of crop protection for the last 30 years, but outside the realm of the “big six” suppliers. Most of his career has been spent with American Vanguard Corp. (AMVAC), a second-tier crop protection manufacturer based in the U.S.
Wintemute believes that this background provides him with a unique view of the industry that prepares him for his upcoming role as chairman of CropLife America.
“AMVAC is on the smaller side of the crop protection equation. This position has led me to establish extensive business relationships with the majority of CropLife America members,” he says. “I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know the people, to understand the needs and concerns of their companies, and to understand the wide range of issues that confront our industry. There is a lot of negative public perception about crop protection, but the members of CropLife America are proud of their industry, and rightfully so. We need to work together to create public awareness of the importance and value of crop protection.”
This industry view dates back to 1994, as Wintemute was beginning his second stint with AMVAC. The company was making products for some of the larger crop protection companies, such as Shell and Chevron, and soon expanded its manufacturing capabilities to include plants in California and Alabama.
The industry began to consolidate, and many of the larger chemical companies turned away from crop protection. AMVAC saw an opportunity and began acquiring “niche chemicals” — smaller products and technologies that the larger companies could not justify in their consolidation plans. In his position as CEO of AMVAC, Wintemute negotiated acquisitions of such products from many of his fellow CropLife America members, including Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, BASF, Bayer, and DuPont. This process made Wintemute recognize the important potential role of CropLife America in the crop protection industry.
“CropLife America has the ability to present a strong and unified message about the importance of the crop protection industry for protecting the health of and feeding the world,” he says. “This is an important role for CropLife America.”
Wintemute points to three recent successes as evidence of CropLife America’s significance in furthering the perception of the crop protection industry. These include the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA), the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In each instance, CropLife America worked closely with legislative representatives and regulatory agencies to include the important perspective of crop protection issues and concerns.
PRIA helped to define fees paid by manufacturers to EPA for the registration of both new and existing active ingredient registrations. “CropLife America worked closely with environmentalists to ensure a result that was satisfactory to everyone,” he says. “As a result, PRIA was implemented in 2004 and Congress is expected to renew PRIA before its 2008 expiration date.”
FQPA called for an “aggressive timetable” that appeared unworkable, says Wintemute. However, CropLife America worked closely with EPA to develop a “road map” for the effective implementation of the act. “This has been a great success,” he says. “During the past 11 years, EPA has been able to meet most of the requirements of the FQPA, working closely with the industry and environmental groups. It has led to a higher level of understanding food safety, which benefits the entire country.”
CropLife America has also been successful in helping to clarify the provisions of ESA. “This was a well-meaning bill, but in practice, the implications were proving unworkable,” he says. “We were pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the National Association of Homebuilders vs. The Defenders of Wildlife. That ruling provides much needed guidance with regard to ESA, but does not override other Congressional directives in other statutes. This has given EPA assistance in ensuring effective and worthwhile compliance with ESA.”
Much of this progress came under CropLife America’s previous chairman, Dow AgroSciences’ Stan Howell. “Stan has done a remarkable job of pulling the troops together during the last two years,” says Wintemute. “Under his guidance, CropLife America did some serious soul-searching, which will help us to move forward. I certainly have some very large shoes to fill.”
More Advocacy, Cooperation
Looking ahead to his position as chairman, Wintemute says that CropLife America needs to address several important issues. Crop protection product container recycling is a current issue that must be addressed. “Fairness is the issue here; only a portion of the companies that add to the container stream currently contribute to the cost of recycling,” he says.
Wintemute would also like to see more industry advocacy to the public about the important role of crop protection. “We play a significant role in providing plentiful food and good health to the world,” says Wintemute. “We need to change the public perception that crop protection is something to be avoided, and draw attention to the extraordinary benefits that our products provide. By 2020, the world population will increase by another 1.5 billion people. Maximizing crop yields and minimizing health hazards may be the most important issues the world has to face. CropLife America should take a hand in spreading this message.”
The issue of the energy component of crops has also come to the forefront. Analysts estimate that by the end of this decade, more than one-quarter of the U.S. corn crop will be used to produce ethanol. “Crop protection to ensure higher yields of corn will be critical, whether for food or for ethanol production,” says Wintemute.
Wintemute believes that CropLife America is positioned to play an important role in the industry of crop protection. “Once again, CropLife America must show the importance of our products to the future of this country,” he stresses. “We must continue to obtain legislation and work with agencies to protect our environment while meeting the growing needs of the world’s population. There is no industry more important to the future than food and energy. Through CropLife America, we are uniquely positioned to develop new and better methods of ensuring plentiful food and health.”