CropLife America 2010: Legal Language Lessons

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As the first year of the Obama Administration draws to an end and we look forward to 2010, CropLife America remains focused on the Congressional agenda — issues capturing the attention of policymakers and potential legislative measures likely to impact the crop protection industry over the next 12 months.

The all-emcompassing health care debate — commanding political discussion on both sides of the aisle in 2009 — will continue to dominate the Congressional calendar next year. However, as Congress pursues an agreement, other issues such as climate change and chemical site security will be gaining momentum and generate activity within the agriculture sector and beyond.

Addressing questions around the causes and consequences of climate change remains a priority for the Obama Administration and Congress as well. Disagreement over proposed legislation persists, and a consensus remains indefinite. CropLife America has worked closely with its allies and stakeholders to ensure proposed legislation won’t adversely impact agriculture and that existing conservation practices are considered as part of any proposed legislation.

Our industry is proud of the role that crop protection products have played in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Through the use of agricultural herbicides, growers are able to manage weeds without excessive tillage and save millions of gallons of fuel that tilling would otherwise require. This “conservation tillage” not only results in less fossil fuels burned for tillage, but lower tilled soils also contributes to increased carbon sequestration.

CropLife America believes any legislation should take into account differences in soil type, crops, and weather to ensure that an important balance is achieved. Ultimately, any climate change legislation should recognize the unique needs of agriculture and the important role that it plays in addressing world hunger and escalating demand for renewable fiber and fuels.

A Supreme Effort

Emphasizing the needs of agriculture is also paramount in CropLife America’s efforts regarding NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elim­ination System) permits for pesticides. Our organization filed a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court after denial by the full 6th Circuit Court to reexamine a three-judge panel’s January 2009 decision vacating EPA’s 2007 NPDES Final Rule for pesticides.

Our association believes the 6th Court’s action undermines not only the benefits of crop protection products but also EPA’s long-standing regulation of pesticides through FIFRA (Federal, Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) with the Clean Water Act. The potential impact are of consequence not only to aquatic, but also aerial and terrestrial applications. It puts U.S. growers at risk for liability as any pesticide application made to, over, and near any bodies of water could require an NPDES permit. This affects both agriculture as well as public health programs, like the spraying of disease-carrying mosquitoes. CropLife America will monitor all developments and work with key stakeholders, while awaiting the Supreme Court’s response,

Working in close cooperation with stakeholders has been the foundation of the crop protection industry’s work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address chemical site security. This issue that will likely see attention in 2010. To assist in our industry’s ability to address agricultural chemical security concerns, our association cooperates with the DHS Chemical Security Coordinating Council (CSCC) and the Food and Agriculture Security Council. This collaborative effort works toward creating guidelines for communicating threat information, reporting suspicious activity, responding to an emergency, and recovering from an incident in addition to identifying mechanisms to further safeguard sites and materials. Along with recently finalized DHS Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) for facilities that manufacture, use, store, or distribute certain chemicals at or above a specified quantity, CropLife America believes these measures to protect chemicals and manufacturing facilities supersede the immediate need for the establishment of new legislation. Instead, our organization supports making the CFATS rule permanent and allowing time to implement it before issuing new guidance.

Potential new guidance regarding spray drift will also receive increased attention in 2010 as EPA seeks comments on proposed guidance for new pesticide labeling to reduce off-target spray and dust drift. Most chemical crop protection products are applied as aerial sprays, consisting of small, light droplets. Occasionally, these droplets may drift to places other than their anticipated settling point while they are still suspended in the air.

CropLife America supports innovative technologies that promote spray drift reduction and advocates for scientific research on spray drift effects; but will continue to oppose “zero-drift” policies that have already been acknowledged by EPA to set an impossible standard.

Spray drift, chemical site security, climate change are only a few of many issues the crop protection industry and U.S. agriculture can expect to confront with in 2010. As a new year begins, CropLife America remains focused on the priorities of modern agriculture priorities by ensuring growers have access to crop protection products that make American agriculture the most productive in the world.

Vroom is president for CropLife America, Washington, DC.

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