Keeping Pace with Politics: 8 Legislative Issues to Watch for Agriculture

For those who love partisan politics, Andy O’Hare, Vice President of Public Policy with The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), brought good news to a crowd of ag retailers in Bloomington, IL. The 2020 presidential election, he said, will be preceded by unprecedented polarization in Washington, DC, “certainly something I’ve never seen before.”

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Fortunately, O’Hare added, some things are getting accomplished “below the radar,” particularly on the agricultural front. He provided legislative updates on August 20 at the annual meeting of the National Agronomic Environmental Health and Safety School:

Trade — “The poor farmer has been most directly injured (by the trade wars). It’s not intentional. It wasn’t President Trump’s intent to bring the ag community to its knees. But that is what has happened. And it’s been driven primarily by retaliation. It’s not a very pretty circumstance. But there is good news. The politics (of replacing NAFTA with USMCA) surprisingly look good, and you’re not reading about any of this in the press. Most of the dealing that’s been going on politically has been behind the scenes, and even Speaker Pelosi, who over the years of her career has rarely been a fan of bilateral or multilateral trade agreements, has cautiously expressed support. This agreement could happen before Christmas.”

Climate Change — “It could not be more of a polarized political football of an issue. Since the beginning of 2019 there have probably been 35 hearings on climate change (in the Democrat-controlled House). Now, there’s no prospects for climate change legislation getting enacted in this Congress — zero — because the Republican-controlled Senate, they’re not going to pass climate change resolution. But if the Democrats retain control of the House and somehow wrench control of the Senate from the Republicans and walk their way into the White House, we’re in for a totally different circumstance. And it’s going to negatively impact the ag community no matter how you slice it.”

Infrastructure — President Trump in 2018 signed reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act, which provides funds for lock and dam improvements. “This is really critical to a bunch of you folks. There are a key number of locks and dams in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Kansas that are in dire need of improvement.” Also, the House this summer introduced a reauthorization of the federal highway bill that would allot almost $300 billion over five years. “The good news for the ag community is that there are some provisions in that legislation that would work to shorten the amount of time it takes to get a federal permit for a new facility or expanding a facility. For those of you who have had the pleasure of working on obtaining permits from the federal government, it takes forever. It can make or break the economics of a particular project.”

CFATS Reauthorization — The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program was extended through April 2020. “The good thing about this particular piece of legislation is that it presents an opportunity for TFI, ARA (Agricultural Retailers Association), and the ResponsibleAg program. The objective here is to have Congress and the federal government acknowledge the tangible benefits of these volunteer programs like ResponsibleAg so we can use that as a precedent to incorporate these kind of volunteer programs into other laws.”

Biostimulants — With the 2018 Farm Bill having finally recognized biostimulants, TFI’s goal is to work with the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) and National Association of State Department of Agriculture (NASDA) to create a uniform national framework and avoid a 50-state solution — “one state by one state by one state” — that can then be implemented by individual states; unlike what has been done for fertilizers, where there’s never been a true national framework of 50 state programs, “which makes it difficult to implement and comply with.”

Regional Emphasis Program — TFI, ARA, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are working together on a regional emphasis program (regions 6 and 7, around Texas and Kansas) for ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia.

• Expanding Personnel Surety Program — The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) is expanding its personnel surety program to tiers 3 and 4, which includes ag retailers. “You send your list of employees to DHS, and they determine and tell you whether any of your employees are terrorists.”

• Heightened Attention on Nurse Tanks — The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is now turning its attention to nurse tanks in light of an April 25 anhydrous ammonia incident in Illinois. “They really haven’t looked at nurse tanks the last decade, but we’ve (since) entertained PHMSA at three different ag retail locations across the nation.”

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Avatar for K V Hann K V Hann says:

Thank you for an excellent update on these and other important issues

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