2013 Agricultural Policy Outlook Unpredictable

No matter where one sits in the world of agriculture, weather matters. While the past season’s drought is fresh in everyone’s minds, Mother Nature provided equally taxing incidences that placed agriculture in the opposite circumstance of floods with very much the same outcome. Whether it’s a drought or a flood, we are in the business of helping customers operate with maximum productivity. Much like the weather, the strength and direction of public policy is often unpredictable. Using this analogy, I characterize the 2013 policy outlook as cloudy with a strong chance of rain.

While the cloud of policy gridlock is very much in the news, inaction rarely extends to the activities of federal regulators and the outside stakeholders they impact where it seems to be raining much of the time. From the environment to fertilizer transportation and security, developments in Washington, DC, and in the states during the coming year are worthy of retailers’ attention.

All Shapes & Sizes

Policy developments come in many shapes and sizes, so it’s important to focus on more than government activity. Many times our challenges originate outside the government and instead come from environmental organizations and are concerned with the impact that we might have on the environment and particularly in their own community. Very often these groups’ legal or advocacy efforts engage the attention of policymakers who then step into action.

The push and pull between the industry’s stewardship of resources, policymakers and non-governmental organizations’ questions about the depth of our commitment — is the figurative umbrella under which all of our challenges sit. In many arenas, we are being evaluated not on practice but on performance. It’s really no different than how you evaluate any of your employees: It’s not what you say you want to do, but the manner in which you are carrying out the job and making a positive difference.

Water quality issues remain front and center for the retail community largely as a result of EPA’s ongoing action in watersheds and individual states. In this policy area, litigation is often a large part of the equation. Under a process that is called “sue and settle,” an environmental group will sue EPA, upon which time EPA will settle the suit which allows the agency to move forward with regulation which it does not have a Congressional mandate to enact.

At presstime, developments in Florida regarding EPA’s action to impose numeric nutrient criteria on agribusiness and others look to be moving in a positive direction, with EPA indicating that it plans to step back and allow the state to resume much of its role in regulating water quality. Make no mistake — regardless of who ultimately comes out on top in this battle, water quality will continue to be regulated. It is worth noting that the any net positive that results in Florida resulted from a strong legal and lobbying response to EPA from the fertilizer industry, farmers, municipalities, state and national politicians, and the business community.

Water Issues Heating Up

On a related issue, we anticipate that action will continue to heat up in March of 2013 in regards to the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) and the northern Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Restoration Network has filed a legal challenge of EPA’s denial of a petition to establish numeric nutrient criteria and a Total Maximum Daily Load to address excess nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the MARB and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

As was the case in Florida, it is reasonable to expect the EPA’s nutrient limits could be very stringent and in some cases impossible to meet. Furthermore, it would be enormously expensive to implement the limits, assuming they could even be met. Just for Florida freshwater systems, the cost was estimated at $298 million to $4.7 billion a year, increasing Floridians sewer utility bills by a range of $570 to $990 per year per household. Because most all states would like to maintain control over regulating their own waters, many states have directly stepped in as parties supporting our intervention in this litigation.

Remember what I said earlier about the necessity of “walking the walk.” Here is where your customers’ implementation of 4R nutrient stewardship (use of the right nutrient source at the right rate, time and place) can play a positive role in keeping nutrients out of the environment in the first place. If you don’t already have one in place, you should consider developing a plan for assisting your growers implement all four of the Rs. This step will not only have benefits for the environment and associated policy but will benefit your customers’ financial bottom line.

Quality is not the only water related challenge for the industry. Our attention is also on the river system and its ability to function for the transport of fertilizer during the spring season. As mentioned earlier, the impact of the drought of 2012 continues to be felt in agriculture, both in your customers’ fields and here in Washington, where there is much attention on the Mississippi River system and its critical role in transporting fertilizer products. Although the Corps of Engineers Annual Operating Plan for the Missouri River requires water releases from dams on the upper Missouri River be scaled back each year, we are asking for a Presidential disaster declaration for the Mississippi River to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to take emergency action that will keep the river open. Without such action, the fertilizer delivery system may be extremely challenged before and during the spring planting season. If you depend on the river, we encourage you to keep in touch with us regarding opportunities to weigh in with your elected officials now and in the future to let them know how important the river transit system is to your business.

Product Security

Moving beyond water issues, product security remains an issue of concern. Earlier this year, The Fertilizer Institute was contacted by the U.S. Department of Defense regarding the use of ammonium nitrate in improvised explosive devices that are being used against American servicemen in Afghanistan. While the fertilizer used in these explosive devices is not from American sources, ammonium nitrate is again in the public spotlight and has garnered the attention of reporters from large circulation publications such as the Washington Post. With this attention, it is incumbent upon retailers who handle ammonium nitrate to take every step possible to ensure that the product is secure and sold only to legitimate farmers.

While the implementation of an ammonium nitrate regulatory program is pending at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) retailers shouldn’t wait for its implementation. The recommended steps from the industry’s “Be Aware for America” program apply as much today as it did more than 10 years ago when the initiative was launched. As a reminder those steps are: Know your customer, protect your product and make the right call to law enforcement if there is a theft of ammonium nitrate or if you notice other suspicious activity.

So there you have it, with the weather as an analogy, I have laid out the cloudy portion of the weather forecast for the policy year ahead. Unlike the weather, however, the prospects for staving off rain are partially in your hands.

As we start the New Year, I encourage you to remain aware of the policy challenges that our industry faces and to get proactively involved in your community, watershed and in the political system as an advocate for fertilizer retailers.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Legislation Stories

CHS St. Paul, MN fertilizer terminal
LegislationICGA Praises President Trump’s Remarks on Waterways Infrastructure
June 12, 2017
Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan, a farmer from Utica, issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s comments Read More
Corn soil
LegislationARA Member Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee
May 25, 2017
Agricultural retailers stand on the front-lines of the American economy. As trusted advisors to America’s farmers, ag retailers are uniquely Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
Trump, Senate, Cabinet
LegislationTrump’s EPA Appointee Dismisses Half of Major Scientific Review Board at Agency
May 8, 2017
(Via NYTimes.com) EPA has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what Read More
Trending Articles
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Redbanded-stinkbug-on-soybean-Photo-credit-Thomas-County-Ag
Crop InputsExperts: Mild Winter, Early Planting Will Increase Soybean Insect Threat
June 12, 2017
Higher than average temperatures this past winter affected much of the nation, especially the South and Midwest. The National Centers Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto ‘Picks Its Battles’ by Nixing Deere Deal
May 23, 2017
Having been in the trade journalism game since the mid-1980s, I remember several watershed moments during my career. One of Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentSpray Application: A Nozzle Renaissance
May 2, 2017
If you had asked four-decade ag veteran Mark Bartel, President of Wilger Inc., just a few years ago what lay Read More
Latest News
Young Corn Plants
Eric SfiligojLaunching New Seed Traits: Wait on China . . . Or Else!
June 26, 2017
In life, no one likes the waiting game. In agriculture, however, playing the waiting game is very important – especially Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Speaks on Dicamba Issues in Arkansas
June 26, 2017
Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer, Robb Fraley, issued the following statement following the Arkansas State Plant Board’s proposal to ban dicamba, Read More
Corn Field
Seed/BiotechCorn Insect Bt Technologies Offer Cost-effective, Proac…
June 26, 2017
When farm economics are challenging, farmers look for ways to bolster profit margins, including reducing input costs. Some may think Read More
Crop InputsArkansas Plant Board Votes to Ban Dicamba — Now W…
June 23, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has voted to pass a proposed emergency rule to ban the use of in-crop dicamba, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsBASF: ‘Closely Monitoring’ Dicamba Situatio…
June 22, 2017
BASF, whose Engenia herbicide is the target of more than 200 drift complaints in Arkansas, emailed the following statement to Read More
ManagementConsolidation Update
June 22, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss progress on manufacturer consolidation, and another big move for Midwest cooperative Central Valley Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
Crop InputsThreat of Dicamba Ban Looms in Arkansas
June 22, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has rejected a proposed ban on the use of dicamba herbicide, but a procedural error Read More
Potash Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium-PotashCorp to become Nutrien upon Merger Complet…
June 21, 2017
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. have announced today that once the anticipated merger transaction closes, the new Read More
Crop InputsMidwestern BioAg Hosts TerraNu Fertilizer Plant Opening…
June 20, 2017
Last Friday, Midwestern BioAg was joined by over 80 local farmers, media and staff to celebrate the grand opening of Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsAligned Ag Distributors Names New President
June 19, 2017
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC announced this morning the appointment of Mary Tolke to the position of President/CEO, effective July 1. Read More
ManagementPlotting Corn, AGCO/Asmark’s Applicator Training Center…
June 15, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent visits to Columbus, OH, and Bloomington, IL, along with an Read More
Seed/BiotechDow AgroSciences Announces Launch of Enlist Corn for 20…
June 14, 2017
Enlist corn will be commercially available in the U.S. for the 2018 growing season. Dow AgroSciences announced the launch today Read More
ASMARK AGCO Applicator Training Center
EmployeesAsmark, AGCO Open Training Center for Beginning Applica…
June 13, 2017
AGCO Corp. and the Asmark Institute have opened a new Applicator Training Center, created in a collaboration between the two Read More
Power to Do More Contest Winners
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Three Winners in Power to Do…
June 13, 2017
Thousands of votes have been cast and three farmers have been awarded the power to do more with a $10,000 Read More
Frogeye leaf spot
FungicidesStrobilurin-resistant Frogeye Leaf Spot Threat Looms wi…
June 13, 2017
Heavy spring rainfall throughout the South and Midwest delayed planting and created the perfect environment for diseases like frogeye leaf Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
CHS St. Paul, MN fertilizer terminal
LegislationICGA Praises President Trump’s Remarks on Waterwa…
June 12, 2017
Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan, a farmer from Utica, issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s comments Read More
Wheat Growers
UncategorizedWheat Growers Names Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice Presiden…
June 12, 2017
Wheat Growers has hired Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice President of Agronomy. Linbo joins Wheat Growers after having served 10 Read More