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

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
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

Trending Articles

Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More

Latest News

EquipmentAgraScout App Available At No Cost To Universities
October 21, 2014
AgraScout, a fast and easy to use mobile crop scouting app, is now available at no cost to University students, Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Program To Provide Relief To Farmers Affe…
October 21, 2014
The USDA has implemented a new Farm Bill initiative that will provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought. Read More
ManagementGreenfield Scholars Program Aims To Sustain Agronomy Wo…
October 21, 2014
The program encourages talented students to study agronomy, crop and soil sciences while cultivating networks to develop the necessary workforce to sustain the profession. Read More
Paul SchrimpfPrecision Ag: Taking It To The Hill
October 21, 2014
A new coalition took the good news message of precision agriculture to Washington, DC, last month. Read More
ManagementUSDA Awards $18 Million In Small Business Research Gran…
October 21, 2014
The grants will provide high quality, advanced research and development that will lead to technological innovations and solutions for American agriculture. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Terminates Merger Discussions With Yara I…
October 21, 2014
CF Industries Holdings and Yara International have terminated their discussions regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Ranked A Top 10 Biotech Employer For Third tim…
October 20, 2014
Syngenta ranked in the top 10 among the world’s top biotech employers, according to an annual survey conducted by Science magazine. Read More
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Break Ground For New Facility At Kennebec
October 20, 2014
Wheat Growers has broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Signs Agreement With Los Alamos…
October 20, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop and market LANL’s latest nitrogen enhancement technology for plants. Read More
MicronutrientsStoller Group Announces Groundbreaking At New Office Bu…
October 20, 2014
Jerry Stoller, founder and president of Stoller Group, announced the groundbreaking at the site of the company’s future headquarters in Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Opens New Production Facility In Nevada
October 20, 2014
BioSafe Systems has completed construction of a state-of-art production facility in Sparks, NV, for its line of activated peroxygen products. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScien…
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechEPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Duo Herbicide
October 15, 2014
The Enlist Weed Control System, breakthrough technology to fight resistant and tough weeds, has received the long-awaited green light from federal regulatory authorities. Read More
MicronutrientsGypsum On Farms Could Help Keep Water Clean, Not Green
October 14, 2014
Gypsum, which has roots in the past as a farm soil treatment, also may have a bright future, and not just as a booster of crops but also as a protector of water. Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Crop InputsVerdesian Grows Sales Staff
October 14, 2014
The new account managers will drive sales growth and support relationships with key customers in the plant nutrition and seed treatment and inoculants product categories. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
October 14, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Purchases Six Grain Elevators, Four Agron…
October 14, 2014
The Andersons has acquired Auburn Bean and Grain of Auburn, MI, which will increase the storage capacity of its Grain Group by about 13%. Read More
StewardshipThree Ohio Ag Retailers Honored With 4R Certification
October 13, 2014
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced its first three agriculture nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More