CropLife America: Farm Bill, Clean Water Act Among Top Issues For 2013

While the dust settles after the November 6 election, CropLife America considers the priorities and progress achieved by its members and allies over the past year, while also reviewing the unresolved work of 2012. To develop a comprehensive understanding of the work ahead in 2013, CropLife America must also review the state elections and what impact they will have on industry priorities. Policy priorities specific to the crop protection industry, like the Endangered Species Act, as well as broader agriculture matters like the Farm Bill are on CropLife America’s active to-do list for 2013.

From its headquarters in Washington, DC, CropLife America continuously looks for opportunities to work closely with both political parties to advance the science and technology of the pesticide industry. As a voice of the larger story of modern agriculture, CropLife America also strives to support the mission and responsibilities of a dynamic American agricultural production system that is a critical component of our national economy.

Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act

The Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA) is a vital piece of legislation which allows a predictable and timely registration process for new crop protection products. PRIA requires applicants for pesticide registration actions to pay specific service fees which support EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs in processing pesticide registration requests. The authority to collect PRIA fees was set to expire on September 30, 2012, and it was therefore CropLife America’s single greatest legislative priority to successfully shepherd its reauthorization. Without the authority to collect PRIA fees, the registration process improvements that have been enjoyed over the past decade would be slowly phased-out, including product registration timelines.

The PRIA coalition, co-chaired by CropLife America, led the effort to renegotiate the reauthorization package with coalition partners, the environmental community and EPA. Through the leadership of  Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Reps. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Collin Peterson (D-MN), this effort ultimately led to the enactment of S. 3552, the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2012. This legislation was signed by President Obama on September 28.

The reauthorization of PRIA will ensure that all stakeholders to EPA’s regulation of the crop protection industry will have confidence in a predictable regulatory program. CropLife America and various other stakeholders will continue to work closely with EPA well into 2013 to implement this important extension of authority.

Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permits

Despite multiple efforts in 2012 to advance legislation (H.R. 872) to clarify that Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are not required for certain aquatic pesticide applications, the implementation of a ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court in National Cotton Council v. EPA has advanced. States are working through the various and multiple challenges associated with the court’s erroneous ruling, and the duplicative and unnecessary regulation by the EPA. CropLife America remains committed to ultimately seeing this court ruling overturned by Congress.

Most recently, the Congressional efforts to write new farm policy provided a vehicle for legislative activity on H.R. 872. Sens. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) led a bipartisan effort to attach H.R. 872 to the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill. Despite overwhelming bipartisan support for the amendment, it was not afforded the opportunity for a vote by the full Senate. The House Agriculture Committee version of the Farm Bill — passed under the leadership of Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and ranking Democrat Collin Peterson (D-MN) — does include the full text of H.R. 872.

CropLife America continues to work with and lead a broad group of allies determined to deliver a Farm Bill that includes clarification that CWA NPDES permits are not required for certain aquatic pesticide applications.

Endangered Species Act

No single environmental statute threatens the crop protection industry’s ability to manufacture, market and sell crop protection chemistry more than the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Pesticide registration actions are subject to a duplicative review of environmental risk to endangered species with a requirement for EPA to formally “consult” with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine and Fisheries Service. CropLife America and its allies have made great progress over the past several years in educating policy-makers regarding the failed process for ESA consultations on pesticide registrations, which is a disservice to stakeholders in the crop protection industry and those charged with protecting threatened and endangered species.

The implementation of flawed biological opinions, as required by a ruling in a federal district court, would have serious, negative impacts for the crop protection industry. CropLife America continues to work on all fronts to pursue a reasonable and science-based outcome for these biological opinions and a comprehensive resolution to the ESA consultations. CropLife America will continue to work closely with Congress and impacted stakeholders to build support for regulatory relief and will continue to lead the charge until such time that the politics are right for addressing ESA compliance in a responsible manner for all stakeholders.

Farm Bill

2012 marked another Farm Bill expiration and debate around all aspects of farm and rural policy. Like Farm Bill debates past, budget implications were a primary driver around policy decisions and this fact was ever more present in the 2012 negotiations. With the growing federal budget pressure, special attention was given to farm commodity, conservation and feeding and nutrition programs when Congress began its task of rewriting broad farm policy.

When Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed the CropLife America board of directors in February 2012, he stressed that behind the computer and information technology industry, the agriculture sector was the second largest economic driver of our national economy. While the crop protection industry is not impacted directly by the Farm Bill, CropLife America remains an aggressive advocate for industry priorities around the Farm Bill debate.

States

While much of the industry focus remains on Washington, the level of environmental activism in state capitals continues to increase. In addition to budget pressures in most states (which lead to efforts to increase pesticide fees), extremists continue to advocate for pesticide restrictions and bans, federal preemption repeals and human exposure concerns. Through a network of CropLife America member company representatives and state and regional partners, the industry has once again met these challenges with science-based, factual responses that address poor public policies designed to appeal to emotion and are not based in fact or sound science.

Coalitions

Federal and state coalitions and associated stakeholder groups are instrumental in reaching out to policy-makers at the grassroots level and on Capitol Hill. CropLife America’s commitment to lead or share leadership on numerous coalitions ensures that the industry’s voice has its largest impact. National and state-based commodity groups, agribusiness allies and state and regional associations work closely with CropLife America to identify industry challenges and opportunities and develop strategies for advancing industry policy. This work continued in 2012 and will again serve as the foundation of the industry’s advocacy efforts in 2013.

There will never be a “mission accomplished” moment for CropLife America and its allies. Advancing necessary science and technology is an ever-evolving process leading to new and exciting discoveries that will serve the broader agriculture sector in the future. Modern agriculture technology and practices are the foundation of our national agricultural system and CropLife America remains steadfastly optimistic about the future of agriculture.

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