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
LegislationUSDA: Quick Implementation Of Disaster Assistance Programs A ‘Top Priority’
July 9, 2014
USDA has processed 106,000 payments to farmers in 40 states across the country who suffered livestock and grazing losses between Oct. 2011 and passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Read More
LegislationTFI Praises White House For Signing WRRDA Into Law
June 11, 2014
The bill streamlines U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, prioritizes authorized waterway improvements and provides needed adjustments to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Read More
LegislationAg Policy: Plenty Of Fertilizer Issues Ahead
January 2, 2014
From West Fertilizer to the Chesapeake Bay, fertilizer producers and dealers are keeping an eye on several Beltway developments in 2014. Read More
Farm Bill
LegislationLack Of Farm Bill Leaves Farmers Facing Uncertainty In 2014
December 13, 2013
With just a few legislative working days remaining in 2013, the likelihood of a new farm bill is waning, leaving farmers in limbo once again. Read More
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Latest News
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementCourt Decision Protects Chesapeake Bay’s Water, Wildlif…
July 7, 2015
Today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the historic clean-up plan for the Chesapeake Bay. Collin O’Mara, president and Read More
Agworld Apple Watch Farm Management
EquipmentAussie Data Management Software Company Making Its Mark…
July 4, 2015
Western-Australia-based Agworld — having fully launched its data management software system stateside last year after a 2013 soft launch — Read More
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
ManagementUnited Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes Merger & Crop Update
July 2, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the reasons behind the United Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes merger and USDA’s recent Read More
Industry NewsBioSafe Adds To Sales Force
July 2, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the hire of two new members for its service team. David Britt recently joined the team Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementChesapeake Bay Clean-Up Gets Renewed Attention
July 2, 2015
The Chesapeake Bay has been called one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. It’s also one of Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
ManagementBulk Pesticide Compliance: Top 10 Areas Of Improvement …
July 1, 2015
  In honor of the 33-year run of David Letterman’s Late Show, the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA) is happy Read More
Industry NewsArysta North America Hires Midwest Sales Manager
July 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the hiring of Brian Battles as the Senior Technical Sales Manager for the Midwest Read More
Farmer on tablet
Eric SfiligojThe Never-Ending Battle Against Modern Agriculture
July 1, 2015
In the world of comic books, the character of Superman often refers to the fight to save the world as Read More
Retail FacilitiesBuilding Up Ag Retail
July 1, 2015
In the oftentimes unpredictable world we live in, it’s nice to know some things can be reliably countered on to Read More
Retail FacilitiesMaple River Grain And Agronomy Phases In Site Developme…
July 1, 2015
Marcus Construction helped Maple River Grain and Agronomy in Casselton, ND, with the design-build of its dry fertilizer, liquid chemical/seed Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Builds A New Liquid Terminal Hub For Br…
July 1, 2015
To build its new hub facility, Briggs Crop Nutrients enlisted the help of A&B Welding. The result, an efficient facility Read More
Edon Farmers Co-op
Retail FacilitiesNew Marcus Facility At Edon Farmers Co-op Provides More…
July 1, 2015
Edon Farmers Co-Op in Edon, OH, needed a new facility to consolidate outdated locations. Marcus Construction was able to design Read More
Retail FacilitiesKinder Morgan Expands Its Storage With A New Dome Barre…
July 1, 2015
Kinder Morgan wanted additional covered storage at its Dakota Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. With Read More
Retail FacilitiesHeartland Tank Protects Fertilizer From Extreme Cold At…
July 1, 2015
The Arthur Companies in Harvey, ND, enlisted the help of Heartland Tank Companies to develop a new liquid fertilizer facility Read More
The McGregor Co. fertilizer loadout
Retail FacilitiesThe McGregor Co. Partners With Kahler Automation To Cre…
June 30, 2015
Kahler Automation helped The McGregor Co. expand its Clarkston, WA, operation with unstaffed loadout technology that enables customers to pick Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Helps CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative Build…
June 30, 2015
CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative in Mooreton, ND, wanted a liquid/dry blender system that could meet the needs of its customers Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More