Legislative Day attendees, including Pennsylvania delegates, gather for a photo.

An energized group of PCOs and other industry stakeholders met with their congressional representatives on March 20 as part of the National Pest Management Association’s (NPMA) Legislative Day.

As in year’s past, attendees encouraged their representatives to consider the pest control industry’s position on regulatory and business-related issues that hamper them from providing services that safeguard people and property.

What was different about this year’s event was there were several factors in their favor, namely a more industry-friendly White House and Congress, and the pending Farm Bill, which needs to be renewed. It’s for these reasons the pest control industry may see the fruits of its advocacy labors in the future.

Prior to making their Legislative Day visits, Andrew Bray, vice president of public policy, NPMA, reviewed three issues the pest control industry is hoping to gain traction with in the current Congress.

REGULATORY CLARITY. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the role between EPA and the states regarding pesticide regulation was clearly defined. EPA regulates and registers products, then enters into agreements with states as to how they regulate the use of pesticides. This procedure was challenged in a 1991 Supreme Court case in which the court ruled that states’ statutes could not specifically exclude political subdivisions (localities). In the mid-1990s most states fixed their statutes to exclude subdivisions; however, five states did not do so, and those five have been battleground states for local pesticide bans (e.g., Maine and Maryland).

NPMA partnered with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) to include in the 2018 Farm Bill language “which would codify the exclusive role of State lead agencies, not political subdivisions, as pesticide co-regulators and to ensure that the expertise these agencies possess is both valued and integrated through their formal role in the development of pre-publication drafts of EPA regulatory proposals and regulations in final form.” On April 12, about one month after this year’s NPMA Legislative Day, the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture released the text of the proposed 2018 Farm Bill and it did include this language.

The FMC-sponsored luncheon included a good-natured debate between Karl Rove (left) and Josh Earnest (right) that was moderated by NPMA’s Andrew Bray (middle).
Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, provided political insights in a speech sponsored by Dow AgroSciences.
Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) was the guest speaker at the Headquarters on the Hill event, sponsored by MGK.
Control Solutions Inc. (CSI) sponsored the Tuesday morning speaker, Corey Lewandowski. Pictured (l to r) are Curtis Clark, CSI; Lewandowski; Ty Ferraro, CSI; and Scott Pinkerton, CSI.

NPDES PERMITS. Despite the fact that pesticides applied in accordance with FIFRA have already undergone a thorough review during the EPA registration and reregistration processes, National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System (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). The pest control industry has long been of the belief that these permits place an unnecessary and costly burden on them. There are two pieces of legislation in Congress to address this duplicative regulation. In the Senate, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act of 2017 (S. 340) has been assigned to the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) awaiting further action. In March, the Senate EPW Committee held a hearing on the Agriculture Creates Real Employment (ACRE) Act which includes the language of S. 340 in section 6 of the ACRE Act. In the House, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017 (H. 953) has passed the Committee on Agriculture with bipartisan support and is now in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT. NPMA and others believe the Endangered Species Act (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 reregistration) 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 now is the time to fix the broken pesticide consultation process between EPA and the Services to better protect people, their businesses and their homes.

Language to address these two Legislative Day initiatives — eliminating burdensome NPDES permits and reforming the Endangered Species Act — was also included in the proposed 2018 Farm Bill. “This is a tremendous development and a testament to our industry’s efforts on this issue the past year, but also an endorsement of this proposal being good policy that better enables PCO’s ability to protect public health,” NPMA CEO Dominique Stumpf said in an email to members. While these are positive industry developments, NPMA cautioned that the Farm Bill is mired in partisan disagreements over spending levels and worker requirements involving nutrition programs (SNAP) which will make passing a Farm Bill much more difficult. At press time, NPMA was anticipating a mark-up of the 2018 Farm Bill any day, where the text of this bill would be debated and amendments would be offered.

Other Legislative Day highlights included:

  • Karl Rove, former Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush, and Josh Earnest, former White House Press Secretary to President Barack Obama, faced off in a good-natured debate sponsored by FMC. Of course, President Donald Trump was the focal point of their discussions. Rove praised the President for cutting the corporate tax to make America more competitive in the interconnected global economy, and for holding NATO allies more financially accountable. However, he shared concerns about all of the turnover in Trump’s administration. As a White House insider who worked closely with former President Barack Obama, Earnest said he foresees one of the major future challenges for Trump is his reactive nature. “You have to be willing to take on the bad headlines in order to achieve longer term goals,” he said.
  • Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) provided political insights with personal and professional stories in a session sponsored by Dow AgroSciences. Chaffetz said business owners are the ones who will solve the nation’s problems — not the “people on Capitol Hill.” Chaffetz related how he has overcome life’s obstacles, including struggling with his parents’ divorce when he was 12, and later losing both his mom and dad to cancer. “I think about those tough times and I realize that is what gave me a lot of strength and a lot of goodness and love,” he said. Chaffetz encouraged Legislative Day attendees to “speak from the heart” and share their personal experiences when they make their Congressional visits.
  • Corey Lewandowski, President Trump’s former campaign manager, shared his observations about the Trump administration in a session sponsored by Control Solutions, Inc. Lewandowski said the Trump organization really operates like a small business, and it has been “refreshing to have a small business owner running our government.” Relating this to PCOs, Lewandowski reminded the attendees “this President made a promise on the campaign that for every new regulation he puts in, he would reduce two. But that’s not what he’s done. For every government regulation he’s put in place he’s actually reduced it by 22.”
  • MGK held its Headquarters on the Hill luncheon. This final-day session was an opportunity for attendees to review NPMA issues and share valuable information obtained during Congressional office visits with fellow members and NPMA staff. The guest speaker was congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.).
  • A performance by the Capitol Steps on Sunday night. The group put Washington’s hottest scandals to popular tunes. The performance and subsequent dessert reception were sponsored by Syngenta.

The author is Internet/managing editor of PCT and can be contacted at bharbison@gie.net.