CropLife America: United We Stand

The parties on all sides of agriculture are acutely aware that we’re in the midst of a critical time of policy development and public opinion. With global population over the next 40 years expected to grow to more than nine billion, and U.S. growers expected to be a key to ensuring an adequate supply of safe and affordable food will be available, the stakes are high.

Unfortunately, public trust in recent years has turned against domestic agriculture, while spokespeople for the “slow and local” food have worked to make a case that it’s possible for all growers to push aside modern agriculture practices and still feed the world. Against this backdrop, a new farm bill will be constructed for 2012 to set policy that will have far reaching implications for those who will inhabit the planet in 2050.

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that with so much in the balance, CropLife America has reached funding levels from its supporting membership at historic highs for the organization. Better yet, after working through a significant reorganization, the organization finds itself in a position to fully engage regulators, the media and the public at large in critical discussions about the future of food production.

About to enter his second term as the Chairman of CropLife America, Bill Buckner, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP, says that the organization is in a great place now. “It’s restructured to bring focus to our primary issues,” explains Buckner. “The executives and staff are able to do what they do best — dealing with stakeholders and shaping our message. The people we have are charged with a mission — they’re less defensive and more offensive on issues.”

CropLife America President Jay Vroom says it’s not just CropLife Amer­ica staff, but improved cooperation and camaraderie between themselves and CropLife International, RISE (CropLife America’s turf/specialty product affiliate) and other ag associations in the Beltway, including The Fertilizer Institute, the Agricultural Retailers Association and the Ameri­can Seed Trade Association.

“We definitely have CropLife Ameri­ca as focused as we have ever been,” says Vroom.

Modern Agriculture Message

For most of the first decade of the 21st century, CropLife America primarily focused on matters of policy and legislation, while the public’s trust in U.S. farmers was holding steady. In recent years, the rise against U.S. farming practices and the call for “slow and local” farming practices to be employed has put public trust at odds with American producers.

Vroom traces this recent battle for the hearts and minds of the public back to 2008 with the “mostly perception-driven food crisis,” he says, “which gave a platform for our critics to become darlings of the mass media in a way that could not have happened otherwise.”

The broad brush of the activist portrayal of modern agriculture as unsustainable — culminating in the highly publicized movie Food Inc. — is proving to be a double edged sword. Virtually everyone in the food production channel was indicted in the documentary, but it served to point out the need for every segment of agriculture to speak out in as singular a voice as possible.

“We all are under assault because the confidence of the American consumer has been beaten back,” says Vroom. “There’s a collective need for all of us engaged in agriculture to communicate a ‘modern agriculture’ message. And that includes the 3% to 4% classified as organic — many are using modern technology and have very little use for 100-year old methods.

“This movement has allowed all of us to pull together,” continues Vroom. “It’s not just crop groups — we are talking a lot with animal ag folks, something I always thought was a missed opportunity. This is a very real threat to the science and technology basis of what American farmer do — produce safe, affordable and abundant food, fiber and renewable fuel. This threat has pulled us together like never before, and hopefully just in time.”

Buckner says that associations are focusing specifically on where they can find agreement on issues. “We want to keep it simple — let’s look at a list of 20 issues and pick out the four or five on which we can completely agree, then get everyone on board and really work on them.

“We need to build coalitions and really get out of our silos and find common ground,” he continues. “Industry associations that work independently and send a single voice are not getting anywhere.”

In addition to coalition building, CropLife America is working to get the positive message out on modern agriculture through its own educational efforts. In July, it hosted its inaugural national policy conference, “Modern Agriculture: Exploring its Relationship with Technology, Science & Society,” which brought together national experts in the fields of agriculture, food safety and security to offer their perspectives on issues facing modern agriculture, and how they will impact the next farm bill.

Earlier this year, the association launched its new Web site at www.CropLifeAmerica.org that puts the modern agriculture discussion front and center, and offers a variety of information geared to frequent users, including sections for students, government officials, and the media. A new section, “About Modern Agriculture,” was posted on the site earlier this month.

In addition to entities outside agriculture, Buckner notes that another challenge is ensuring that employees at member companies are up to speed with the direction that industry communication is headed. “We need to ensure that our employees ‘on the ground’ are active and talking about modern agriculture,” he says.

To this end, CropLife America recently took nationwide a campaign started by Bayer CropScience called “Tell Me More,” which is geared towards member companies. “This is an educational initiative which helps employees in the industry feel comfortable talking about modern agriculture and the role crop protection plays,” says Vroom. “We provide talking points, updates on current news stories that might come up in everyday conversation, presentations, and other materials, and we are challenging our members and their employees to talk about the benefits of modern agriculture.”

More Key Issues

The association continues to work with Beltway regulators and legislators on a variety of fronts that could impact retailers. Here are some:

Clean Water Act. CropLife Ameri­ca is still battling a 6th Circuit U.S. Federal Court panel’s decision that vacated the EPA’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) final rule for aquatically applied pesticides in 2009. This Final Rule states that NPDES permits are not required when pesticides are applied to control pests present over or near water, where a portion of the pesticide will unavoidably be deposited to the water, in order to target pests. The rule also exempted pesticide applications directly to water to control pests.

The circuit court panel’s decision overturned this policy, ruling that pesticide applications made to, over, or near bodies of water in the U.S. would require (NPDES) permits.

At the core of the issue is whether pesticides should be classified as pollutants under the Clean Water Act when they are tested and regulated already under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and by the EPA Office of Pes­ticide Programs. This intertwining of regulatory authority is creating liability that has legislators nervous, and last month resulted in the introduction of a bill supported by CropLife America that would sort out the jurisdiction. Vroom is cautiously hopeful that the bill could move this session.

“There is some serious angst in Con­gress about the duplicative regulatory process imposed by the circuit court and the extra layer of legal liability it creates,” says Vroom. “So while it might be challenging to get a bill through Congress through regular order, this may not be the only way this legislation gets consideration.”

Endangered Species Act. It seems unlikely that environmental activists will ever stop trying to intertwine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with pesticide regulation, an issue Vroom calls “the most challenging issue I have had to deal with in my 20 year career.”

Extremist environmental organizations have been working hard to parlay ESA into a relevant pesticide regulating law, something it was never designed to do and which would throw jurisdiction of pesticide regulation into a whirlwind of lawsuits, onerous permitting and uncertainty.

Recently, the Center for Biological Diversity had promised to file a nationwide pesticide lawsuit by summer’s end. The industry could be facing broader litigation that challenges EPA pesticide registrations on a larger list of pesticides, crosscutting a much larger array of endangered species.

CropLife America staff have been working on background in anticipation of the lawsuit, and Vroom is cautiously confident that they are ready if or when the suit is filed.

Spray Drift, Worker Protection. The association continues to watch both issues closely. Public comment on EPA’s new spray drift rules closed this past spring, and after a couple of missed deadlines there’s been no clear indication as to when the rules will be released.

On worker protection standards, Vroom says that the issue is significant to the Obama administration and that updated worker protection rules will be coming from EPA in the months ahead. “We’ve had a dialog with the administration letting them know we share their concerns in this area,” says Vroom. “It is the one area where there is significant potential risk, and that we need careful management and good public policy. We don’t have any guess as to where EPA’s proposals will start, but we will have our work cut out for us.”

Leave a Reply

Legislation Stories

Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump Tower Pilgrimage
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Crop InputsARA 2016: 5 Developments Worth Monitoring Into 2017
December 6, 2016
You can pretty much set your watch to it (do people even still wear watches? I know I do…but I’m Read More
Pipe rack
LegislationCourt Sides With Ag Retailers On PSM
September 23, 2016
The D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when Read More
Trending Articles
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
Latest News
Eric SfiligojNo Alternative Facts: Dicamba Cropping System Applicato…
January 23, 2017
During President Donald Trump’s inauguration, much fuss was made over the use of the term “alternative facts” vs. some of Read More
Young Corn Plants
ManagementTimac Agro USA Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
January 20, 2017
Timac Agro USA, an agriculture supply company specializing in high-efficiency plant and animal nutrition products, has acquired St. Louis,MI-based A&E Ag, Read More
Soybean field
Crop InputsNufarm Teams Up With John Deere Financial
January 19, 2017
Nufarm and John Deere Financial have teamed up to help farmers grow a better tomorrow. This program helps make purchases Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
ManagementPresident Trump, Wisconsin Review, and a Dow-DuPont Upd…
January 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj reflect on a new administration, a recent winter show, and crop protection company mergers. Read More
Industry NewsBayer, MS Technologies Get China Approval For Balance G…
January 18, 2017
MS Technologies and Bayer have received import approval from China for Balance GT soybeans. The new Balance GT Soybean Performance Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump…
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesStudy: Focusing On Weed Seedbank Can Help Manage Herbic…
January 18, 2017
Researchers writing in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science provide important insights on the control of herbicide-resistant giant Read More
Management3 Financial Trends To Watch In Agriculture
January 17, 2017
I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of credit managers for Midwest ag supply and input companies, in part Read More
Andersons Retail Store
CropLife 100The Andersons To Close All Retail Stores; Shutdown Does…
January 16, 2017
In a stunning announcement to the Toledo area, The Andersons Inc. said on Sunday that it would close its two Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 16, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Corn
Eric SfiligojThe Mood From Madison? In A Holding Pattern
January 16, 2017
Last week, I had the chance to attend the annual Wisconsin AgriBusiness Classic show in Madison, WI. It’s been a Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsAccenture Helps Syngenta Transform Its Global Logistics
January 13, 2017
Syngenta, a leading agriculture company, has collaborated with Accenture to design and implement a new digital logistics operating model across Read More
Fall Creek Seth Harden The Nature Conservancy
StewardshipLocal Farmers’ Watershed Initiative: Continuous Improve…
January 13, 2017
The goal in the Big Pine Watershed Project is to more intentionally do what local farmers and responsible ag retailers Read More
HerbicidesEPA Expands Enlist Duo Herbicide Registration To 34 Sta…
January 13, 2017
The U.S. EPA has expanded the geography for application of Enlist Duo herbicide from 15 to 34 states. This means Read More
Olson Ag Enterprise
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Nebraska Seed Retailer
January 13, 2017
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More
ManagementDeere-Precision Planting Update and the Ag Secretary Wa…
January 12, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj provide the latest on the court date for John Deere/Precision Planting and the quest Read More
Monsanto sign
Seed/BiotechMonsanto, NRGene Form Agreement For Big Data Genomic An…
January 12, 2017
Monsanto Co. and NRGene have announced that the companies have reached a non-exclusive, multi-year global licensing agreement on NRGene’s genome-analysis Read More