NPMA CEO Dominique Stumpf (left) welcomed Legislative Day attendees . (Right) Bob Dold, Jr. (Rose Pest Solutions), a former U.S. congressman, shared advice for virtual Capitol Hill visits.

Despite a change in format from in-person to virtual, the pest control industry still got its messages to Congress during NPMA Legislative Day in March.

Using the Soapbox platform, attendees met with their Senators and Congresspersons to share why the pest control industry provides essential services and to advocate for the industry on the following issues:

  • Educating members about the pest control industry’s connection to public health;
  • Priorities in future COVID packages;
  • Educating members on problematic provisions of the PACTPA bill from the last Congress, which is expected to be re-introduced.

EDUCATION. An important goal for this year’s Legislative Day attendees was to raise awareness of the importance of the pest control industry. In a Zoom presentation, Rollins’ Bonnie Rabe addressed Legislative Day attendees on this topic, noting, “We were designated as essential during the pandemic, which proved correct given the increases we saw in calls from our customers. Insects and rodents do not heed the call to socially distance.”

Among messages NPMA asked attendees to share with their congressional reps was that pest control is essential every day. “We protect children who may be allergic from stinging insects on the playgrounds where they play,” Rabe said. “We control cockroaches in homes and schools, which bring allergies or asthma attacks. In yards and in recreational areas, where we all like to spend our free time these days, we don’t have to worry about things like Rocky Mountain spotted fever.”

Rabe added that while there are several important issues for attendees to discuss with their reps, she encouraged them to share a bit about their professionalism and their businesses. These conversations, Rabe said, “can open many doors for discussions down the road, because pests affect everyone, and we are the protectors of public health, property and families.”

COVID-RELATED ISSUES. Pest control operators, like other business owners, have felt the stress of COVID-19 on numerous fronts. Legislative Day attendees asked their congressional representatives to support a pair of issues in future bills aimed at providing relief to businesses impacted by COVID-19: The Healthy Workplaces Tax Credit Act (S. 537); and the AG CHAIN Act (Assistance and Gratitude for Coronavirus Heroes in Agribusiness who are Invaluable to the Nation). NPMA Director of Public Policy Jake Plevelich reviewed these two issues with attendees.

THE HEALTHY WORKPLACES TAX CREDIT ACT (S. 537). This bipartisan bill creates a refundable tax credit for 50% of the costs incurred by a business for disinfecting, extra cleaning, and other measures to keep Americans safe and healthy. Plevelich said this is a great tax credit because it cuts two ways. “It’s a tax credit that we can use for PPE and various equipment if we’re doing pest control or to reopen our own offices. Or, for our customers to hire us since we are performing disinfectant services,” he said.

AG CHAIN ACT. Introduced in May 2020 by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) and Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), the AG CHAIN Act is an extension of the previously introduced GROCER Act. It would provide a federal tax holiday and a payroll tax exemption for all essential employees in the food and agriculture industry defined by recent Department of Homeland Security guidance. These provisions would take place during the first quarter of the year for individuals making less than $75,000 annually. For those eligible, “it’s a big thank you and recognition for their service and their dedication to operating and making sure that we can have an operative food supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Plevelich said.

PESTICIDE ISSUES. NPMA Vice President of Public Policy Ashley Amidon reviewed with attendees an issue related to pesticide regulation, H.R.7940/S.4406, “The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA). Introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Co.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in 2020, this bill has several problematic provisions, including the repeal of pesticide preemption from the 44 states where it currently exists, which would allow local governments to regulate pesticides instead. This would allow every local community to enact legislation and other policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law.

“So, for example, you could have a county board of supervisors, the city council, or if you live in a borough or a parish, whatever governs those entities…these are groups that don’t have scientific expertise,” said Amidon.

Amidon added that since many local governments are facing budget restraints, they don’t have the resources to bring in “an economist or an epidemiologist, anyone to really look at the science or the economic impact, which means that those decisions become political.”

The call to action for Legislative Day attendees was to explain to their congressional representatives their opposition to the reintroduction of H.R.7940/S.4406 or any similar legislation that reduces the role that science and state lead agencies play.

The author is senior digital editor of PCT.