IRVING, Texas — More than 80 industry professionals traveled to the Lone Star State in April to attend the UPFDA Spring Conference at the Gaylord Texan Resort. While there, speakers and attendees alike tried to discern what the future may hold for the structural pest control industry from both a regulatory and legislative perspective under the Trump Administration.

“We have a new (pro-business) administration, but that doesn’t guarantee anything for our industry” observed Aaron Hobbs, president, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE). And while there are positive signs the Trump Administration is planning to lighten the regulatory burden on small business — as evidenced by the Executive Order signed by President Trump in late February directing the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the “Waters of the United States” rule — the future remains uncertain, in part, because of the slow pace of Cabinet nominations and appointments.

“Things are moving a little more slowly than we would have hoped,” Hobbs said. “It’s a challenge.” Nonetheless, the longtime association executive is optimistic that under Scott Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA “will strike a balance between business and regulation.”

Another area of potential concern is the proposed funding cuts to EPA as outlined in the Trump Administration’s 2018 budget. The proposed cuts, the deepest of any agency in the Federal government, could impact staffing levels at EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), which plays a critical role in the pesticide registration process.

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Hobbs said RISE doesn’t want the Administration “to take any of those jobs out of the Office of Pesticide Programs” since previous budget cuts already have slowed the product registration and registration-review process, a sentiment echoed by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) in a position paper distributed at its annual Legislative Day event.

“Since sequestration in 2013, annual funding for OPP has dropped from $136 million to $120 million. This significant drop has led to a lack of resources and delays in pesticide registration and review,” according to the NPMA. “EPA officials indicated that the average approval time of a pesticide product has increased by more than 200 days as a result of the lower funding levels. Adequately funding the EPA will lead to a more timely, deliberate, and predictable registration and registration-review process.”

“We need to be pro-active,” Mohamed Rachadi, chariman of the UPFDA Regulatory/Government Affairs Committee, said, particularly when it comes to lobbying for continued funding of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. “Every voice helps.”

In welcoming attendees to the three-day conference, UPFDA President Karen Furgiuele spoke of the importance of industry representatives working together to address areas of concern for the industry like OPP funding, local legislation designed to restrict responsible pesticide use, and pollinator health, just to name a few. “At the end of the day, we all need to work together on issues that we are facing as an industry,” she said.

The keynote speaker at this year’s conference was Dr. Jerome Goddard, an extension professor of medical entomology at Mississippi State University, who discussed “Zika Virus and Vector-Borne Diseases.” During this well-attended session, Goddard said there’s no shortage of public health threats from pests, which means “it’s a good time to be a bug person.”

And while the Zika virus has yet to impact the United States as dramatically as Brazil, that doesn’t mean we should minimize the legitimate health threat posed by Zika and other vector-borne diseases, particularly given the fact the two primary mosquito species responsible for transmitting the disease, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, are present in the United States (see range maps above).

These mosquitoes are “very efficient vectors of disease,” Goddard said, so PMPs must remain vigilant, taking every opportunity to educate their customers about how to reduce mosquito habitat, particularly discarded tires, “the perfect place for mosquitoes” to live and breed.

Goddard said should a large-scale outbreak occur this year, aerial spraying is an effective control strategy. However, the public is opposed to such treatments, so PMPs may be able to lend a helping hand by providing ULV treatments or treating backyards using a backpack sprayer, thereby addressing their customers’ concerns. “If it would really erupt, the health department can’t visit every house,” he said. “There might be some contract mosquito control money available if you have a big outbreak,” while at the same time providing a much-needed public health service.

In other conference news, Dale Baker, vice president of sales, J.T. Eaton & Co., updated attendees on Pi Chi Omega, a national fraternity of pest management professionals. Baker said that following the death of longtime Executive Director Vern Toblan in 2014, the fraternity went through a period of transition and renewal, as evidenced by some recent changes in the organization.

Dale Baker, vice president of sales at J.T. Eaton & Co., presented a session on the history and mission of Pi Chi Omega, a national pest control fraternity.

Pi Chi Omega hired an association management firm — Coron Cooper & Associates — to manage the day-to-day operations of the association, and Baker said the group’s leadership, including Judy Black, Kim Kelley-Tunis and Cisse Spragins, helped reinvigorate the organization. As a result, he said, “We’re really focused on getting things moving again.”

The group, formed in 1950 by six students at Purdue University, currently boasts nearly 450 members from 38 states and four foreign countries. The fraternity is also in the midst of publishing a book chronicling its history titled, “Pi Chi Omega: The First Sixty-Six Years.” If interested in becoming a member, contact: Pi Chi Omega, P.O. Box 187, Fredericksburg, VA 22404, 540-376-3617.

In other notable speaker presentations, Alexis Wirtz, vice president of conventions and meetings, NPMA, along with Dennis Jenkins, president, ABC Home & Commercial Services, Lewisville, Texas, updated attendees on the association’s P3 strategic planning initiative, which focuses on four key areas with the vision of every household and business one day being protected by professional pest management services:

  • Consumer Connections: A growing number of consumers are actively seeking protection of their residences and businesses with PMPs.
  • Members: An increasing number of pest management companies are using NPMA benefits to improve the quality of their businesses.
  • Public Health Leadership: NPMA and pest management professionals are the trusted source for protecting people, structures and land from pest-related health threats.
  • Regulators & Policy Makers: NPMA is increasing its influence in the development of balanced and proactive legislation and regulations.

The two NPMA representatives also highlighted the association’s Executive Leadership Program, an initiative design-ed to identify and engage “emerging leaders” from various parts of the country who want to enhance NPMA and the membership experience.

Through the program, up-and-coming PMPs receive the tools they need to be future leaders within the organization. Program elements include educating participants about the history of NPMA and its future plans, as well as skills training in networking, cultural competency and more. In addition to self-study, participants engage in monthly conference calls with NPMA leaders and work directly with a mentor. NPMA also covers the cost of registration and travel to both NPMA Academy and PestWorld 2017. The first Executive Leadership class consists of 10 PMPs from around the country.

Other speakers on the UPFDA Spring Conference program included Marty Whitford, publisher of PMP magazine, who discussed “Pest Management Trends,” and Linda Johns, vice president of ASPCRO and program manager with the Montana Department of Agriculture, who shared her thoughts about the “Coming Changes to Pest Management Regulation.”

In terms of UPFDA business, during the group’s board meeting, Treasurer Cisse Spragins reported that the association finished 2016 with a financial surplus, in part, because of a modest dues increase and various cost-cutting measures the previous year. As a result of UPFDA’s improving financial condition, the board voted to increase its support of the Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials (ASPCRO), increasing its annual donation to the group from $500 to $1,250.

ASPCRO is a valuable ally both at the state and national level, while also serving as an important liaison for the industry when working with EPA on various regulatory issues, according to Steve Levy, a member of the UPFDA board and president of Bell Laboratories. “We’ve worked with ASPCRO when interacting with the agency in the past,” he said. “They’re looked upon as being an unbiased source of information by the Agency as opposed to manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, who understandably represent their company’s interests.”

Levy also reported that the UPFDA Site Selection Committee has selected the Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for its summer board meeting, August 15-16, and the historic Drake Hotel in Chicago, Ill., for the 2018 UPFDA Spring Conference, which is scheduled for April 17-19. Next year’s Spring Conference will recognize the 50th anniversary of the association.

Finally, Furgiuele’s term as the UPFDA representative on the NPMA’s board of directors ended this year. She is being replaced by Donna Giacalone, vice president of The Bug Stop, Chicago, Ill. Giacalone said Furgiuele “is a very hard act to follow,” but she is honored by the appointment. Other supplier representatives on the NPMA board include Scott Reasons, head of lawn and garden Americas, Syngenta, and James Schaffer, president, PestWest.

Overall, the UPFDA Spring Conference proved to be another very positive and productive meeting. “Our membership is growing and attendance at the Spring Conference is growing,” MGK’s Scott Riley, a member of the board of directors, said. “And we appreciate it!”

Industry Research Highlights PMP Attitudes About Distribution

CLEVELAND, Ohio – PCT magazine recently surveyed PMPs from across the country to assess the state of the distribution market, inquiring about a range of topics of importance to the PMP/distributor relationship. The survey was sent via email by Readex Resarch, a third-party research firm based in Stillwater, Minn. A representative sampling of PCT readers received the survey between April 13-25, 2017, with 252 PMPs responding to the survey. The margin of error for the survey results is plus/minus 6.3 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Below are a portion of the survey results. Correction: In two of the charts that appeared in the magazine — “The State of the Distribution Market” and “PMPs Loyal to Primary Distributor” — the rating scales on the bar graphs were reversed. In the online version of this article, PCT has recreated the bar graphs with the correct data. PCT regrets this error.

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