Delegates from Virginia met to discuss strategy prior to making congressional visits.

By Brad Harbison

This was a milestone year for NPMA Legislative Day, held in our nation’s capital in March, as it marked 30 years since the first event, which was attended by about 28 industry professionals. While Legislative Day programming has changed throughout the years, the centerpiece of the program — members making visits to Capitol Hill — remains the same.

More than 400 pest management professionals attended this year’s event, and they used their congressional visits to raise awareness about four pesticide- and business-related issues.

Prior to making their way to Capitol Hill, attendees were briefed by Andrew Bray, director of public policy, NPMA, and Jim Fredericks, director of technical services, NPMA, about the following issues they would be addressing with their congressional representatives.

NPDES – An issue on the pest control industry’s radar for many years has been the requirement of National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System (NPDES) permits, which the industry believes places an unnecessary burden on them. Despite the fact that pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) have already undergone a thorough review during the EPA registration and reregistration processes, NPDES permits are required under the Clean Water Act any time chemical pesticides are used in, over or near Waters of the United States (WOTUS). Bray said recent NPDES permit developments have been positive. In late February, the House Agriculture Committee approved the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (H.R. 953), legislation that would eliminate NPDES permits. A counterpart bill in the Senate, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act of 2017 (S. 340), also was introduced. Legislative Day attendees met with their Congressional representatives and encouraged them to support both H.R. 953 and S. 340.

Lowering the Corporate Tax Rate – The pest control industry has joined other industries in the fight to lower the corporate tax rate. The most recent development occurred in April when President Trump announced his proposed tax plan, which NPMA’s Bray interprets as lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent, and lowering “pass through” entity tax rates to as low as 15 percent. (An S corp is an example of a “pass through” entity.) At press time, details of Trump’s tax plan were sparse, but Bray said NPMA is monitoring the situation closely and “this is a welcome development in lowering business tax rates for NPMA members.”

Funding EPA’s OPP – While the pest control industry has somewhat of a love-hate relationship with EPA, the agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs is viewed as vital; it is responsible for registering and reevaluating pesticides. Since 2010, EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs has seen a 25 percent decrease of full-time employees and since 2010 funding has dropped from approximately $143 million to $120 million. This drop in funding has resulted in an underfunded and understaffed office that bogs down the registration and reregistration process of pesticides. Legislative Day attendees asked their congressional reps to reauthorize PRIA (H.R. 1029) and protect OPP funding levels under the new administration.

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Endangered Species Act – NPMA is part of a larger group that is pushing to modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA). NPMA and others believe the ESA, as currently drafted, is broken. The Department of Interior, specifically the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively the Services), are tasked with implementing the ESA. This group can slow down the registration (or re-registration) review of products they determine may affect a listed endangered species by engaging in a slow-moving consultative process — involving scientific assessments with different standards and expertise — with EPA. NPMA believes this collaborative consultation process is broken and unnecessarily bureaucratic. Currently there is no pending legislation in Congress to address the ESA, so the goal at Legislative Day was for attendees to raise awareness of this issue with their legislators.

Other Legislative Day highlights included:

  • Fox News’ Bret Baier gave the keynote luncheon speech, sponsored by FMC. Baier made several observations about Donald Trump from the time he has spent with him personally and professionally. Baier said that despite the bumpy first few months, “Don’t count him out no matter how bad things get.” One advantage the Trump administration has, Baier noted, is that in 2018 there will be 11 Senators up for re-election in 2018 in states that Trump handily won. Baier said the Republican strategy might be to have Trump spend time in these states encouraging support for issues important to him such as tax reform.
  • Mark Halperin of Bloomberg TV’s “With All Due Respect” shared his thoughts in a session sponsored by Dow AgroSciences. Halperin’s observation of Trump is that there is a “good Trump” and a “bad Trump” and that is creating a lot of anxiety. From having observed Trump on the campaign trail, he said he thinks what people get the most wrong about Trump was his motivation for running for President. “He ran because he wanted to make America great again — not because he was bored. He didn’t believe that career politicians could get the job done on issues such as trade and tax reform, immigration and regulatory reform.”
  • Political analyst Charlie Cook spoke in a session sponsored by Control Solutions Inc. Cook said the outcome of the 2016 election can be boiled down to two issues: (1) Voters were disenchanted with Washington. “They all hated Washington and when that happens people will be even more oriented to change.” (2) Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, was a deeply flawed candidate. “She inherited all of her husband’s baggage and none of his charm.”
  • Sen. Marco Rubio spoke as part of the MGK “Headquarters on the Hill” session. The Florida Senator and 2016 Presidential candidate praised pest management professionals for the important role they play in protecting public health. Rubio said municipalities should consider contracting with the private sector for vector work.

PCT Online has additional coverage of Legislative Day, including a slideshow of photos. Visit the “online extras” section of PCT Online.

The author can be reached at bharbison@gie.net.