2008: Full Of Challenges & Opportunities

This summer was a period of tremendous challenge to our members both on the agricultural and urban fronts. Thus, the theme of the Western Plant Health Association (WPHA) meeting — “Corralling the Future” — was very timely. 

 WPHA has been working with members to focus on issues that reflect the theme of the meeting, and to prepare them with information on many of the topics that were discussed.

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Preparing for the future means delivering information on a timely basis. WPHA has dramatically increased our delivery of programs and conferences. This year, we will triple from three to nine the number of conferences we deliver to members on an annual basis. These conferences reflect the issues that were addressed at our annual meeting, including biotechnology, regulations, the economics of agriculture, and food safety concerns and their impact.

Among our speakers we were honored to have Elin Miller, U.S. EPA administrator for Region X, provide comments on these subjects from a federal perspective. Her participation in the meeting helped crystallize for members the complicated issues in which WPHA is engaged. Also speaking were leaders of such respected organizations as Western Growers and the California Grape & Tree Fruit League. The economic impacts of California’s legislative and regulatory initiatives were analyzed by a leading national financial analyst, and future technologies were discussed by a leading scientist in biotechnology.

Examples of issues that speakers discussed were the proposed regulations impacting pesticide volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These regulations will impact not only what products may be available, but when they can be used, how they can be used, and who will be able to use them. 

Another key issue was water quality. Water agencies are beginning the process of developing new water quality standards for the future. This year, WPHA created a Water Quality Committee, consisting of our members’ leading water quality scientists to address these highly technical issues. Through this committee’s work, WPHA has been able to provide comments on the development of future standards.

Legislative Issues

WPHA continues its work to ensure that growers will maintain their right to decide crop protection management issues. California continues in its efforts to lead the way in mandating alternative chemistries and “green initiatives.” We are working to stop — or amend to a reasonable degree — legislation that would prohibit the use of safe products and lead California farther down a “hostile to business” path.

What all these speakers made clear was that we all need to be proactive in telling our story. Becoming more proactive in our communications programs has been a high priority for WPHA this year. WPHA contributes regularly to agricultural publications, has been successful in reaching out to newspapers to provide stories from the “local” angle, and participates in comprehensive radio interviews.

WPHA also is working with our members in the area of crisis communication, providing them with training and more resources on how to interact with the press in the future.

As we expected, this has been a dynamic year. The speakers at our meeting made clear a repeated theme: changes to the agricultural sector will continue to occur at an ever accelerating rate. To address them, we will all have to continue to work together as the crop protection industry, and as part of the wider agricultural community. WPHA looks forward to the challenge and in supporting our members in their efforts to “Corral the Future.” 

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