VIEW FROM THE TOP
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE CROP PROTECTION INDUSTRY
Title: President/CEO, CropLife America (CLA), Washington, DC. He joined CLA in 1989.
Education: University of Illinois with a degree in agricultual science.
Responsibilities: CLA is the national lobbying and advocacy association representing the plant science industry.
Background: Raised on an Illinois farm, he continues to have an active business interest in the family grain and livestock enterprise.
AM: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the agriculture industry?
JV: Agriculture is facing some of the most substantive changes we've ever seen in this country's history, both in terms of policy and markets. A major challenge is to figure how our industry fits into this equation for conservation spending and the direction we need to take, from a policy standpoint, in Washington.
Farm policy changes in the 2007 Farm Bill and trade-driven impacts from the WTO and other agreements are going to significantly change the demand side of our industry - some for the better and some for the worse. In the 1990s there was a huge shift with more dollars going to conservation incentives, wetlands, etc., than on traditional farm programs. That trend will continue as we see the impact of the 2007 Farm Bill and WTO negotiations. There is a role for our technologies in these conservation incentives and the question is how we can take advantage of those opportunities.
One of the things we have been doing is developing relationships with major conservation organizations. This year our members have contributed more than $350,000 worth of pesticide technology for use by Ducks Unlimited in restoring or establishing duck habitat that's being threatened by invasive species. It's a great way to point out that pesticide technology can have an important role in helping to preserve and protect habitat for wildlife.
There's also a great story to tell in terms of our role in energy conservation through reduced tillage and no-till operations.
AM: What are CropLife's short and long term challenges for this year? How is CropLife helping to provide solutions?
JV: Our No. 1 short-term issue is sustaining the current voluntary container recycling program through the Agricultural Container Recycling Council. We've made participation in ACRC a condition of CropLife membership, and our industry has been very supportive of this. Our expectation is that EPA will propose a rule in early 2006 that requires registrants to provide the opportunity for dealers and farmers to recycle.
A longer term issue that we will be working on this year is the modernization of the Endangered Species Act. This past year, we supported a national grassroots campaign to update the ESA with the goal of using the best available science and common sense to protect and recover species. The House approved the Threatened and Endangered Species Act (H.R. 3824) on Sept. 29, 2005. Efforts in the Senate are also underway. In 2006 CLA will work to persuade members of the Senate to enact meaningful ESA reform and ignore the rhetoric and misinformation being voiced by some activist groups.
Another serious long term issue is the series of court decisions during the past five years, which have set an alarming precedent regarding pesticides and the Clean Water Act. The application of pesticides in irrigation districts, mosquito abatement districts and forestry operations in many states are now subject to Clean Water Act permitting requirements. To stave off attempts to apply the same permits to farmers, we are conducting a grassroots campaign supporting a rule to clarify the relationship between water and pesticide regulations. We're also supporting federal legislation which would make permanent EPA's rulemaking.
AM: What is the most critical factor in successfully achieving these goals?
JV: Communicating effectively about the benefits of crop technology continues to challenge the association. Our goal is to arm those in the business with the tools to speak responsibly, accurately and with conviction about this business - and be proud of it!
AM: What are the challenges resulting from the changing face of the association's membership?
JV: There has been a steady consolidation among the major players, generic as well as basic manufacturers on our membership roll. We will be taking a new strategic and creative approach to reach more potential members.
Part of our membership recruitment will be in partnership with Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment. RISE is the specialty product partner of CLA.
Our challenge is to remember that we need to speak with one voice. We need to set aside our individual interests and work together on the issues that impact all of us.