The impact of COVID-19 on 2020 legislative sessions continues, with a mix of approaches by states. Many states suspended their sessions in March. Others, including California and New York, continued with close to regular order. Several state and local bills RISE tracked were tabled or reconsidered because of their fiscal impacts — now an important factor as states come to grips with COVID-19-related budget shortfalls.
At the federal level, two bills were introduced in Congress affecting pesticide use. One did not advance, but at press time, a second — the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2020, or PACTPA — poses a significant threat to how our industry is regulated.
This year, many pest management professionals (PMPs) and other industry stakeholders met with members of Congress to talk about the benefits of their work and the important role pesticides play in pest management. Visits to Capitol Hill began in January and continued in-person until March, when COVID-19 stay-at-home orders went into effect. Virtual visits have picked up this fall, however, to educate members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about the importance of effective pest control.
PACTPA’S POTENTIAL REACH
These visits and conversations laid the groundwork to oppose PACTPA, a bill that would circumvent the federal pesticide regulatory statute, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Introduced by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), PACTPA would:
- Immediately ban some classes of pesticides and defer to other countries’ regulatory decisions.
- Allow localities to pass restrictions on pesticides, bypassing state pesticide preemption laws.
- Allow public petitions to ban pesticide products.
In September, 340 associations and groups sent letters to all members of the Senate and House, opposing the measure and calling on Congress to uphold FIFRA. Specialty industry stakeholders, including PMPs, were essential to bringing strong opposition to PACTPA — and will be essential to continuing outreach into 2021 and the 117th Congress.
COLORADO PREEMPTION UPDATE
At the state level, RISE joined a multi-stakeholder coalition in Colorado to challenge a bill aimed at rolling back its state pesticide preemption law that prevents localities from regulating pesticides. PMPs were at the forefront opposing this change in regulatory authority, right up until the state legislature closed in mid-March under a stay-at-home order. The measure is likely to return in 2021, and will call for a new approach in the virtual advocacy environment.
RISE continues to call for active engagement with elected officials at all levels of government. PMPs have a unique opportunity as an essential industry to share their expertise and talk about pesticide use as part of an integrated approach. We encourage everyone to take advantage of resources provided by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and state associations to support advocacy by email, virtual meetings and virtual testimony. In some cases, not having to travel to meet in-person has resulted in easier access to meetings and hearings.
VIRTUAL MEETING REPORT
In addition to our advocacy work, RISE hosted its first-ever Virtual RISE Annual Meeting in August. Though certainly not how the organization planned to introduce its new president to the full membership and partners and share its new five-year strategic plan, RISE moved quickly to reprogram and convene 260 members and partners, including the NPMA. The RISE governing board elected two new officers: Chair Stephanie Jensen, BASF, and Vice Chair Zack Zaki, FMC. Karen Larson, Clarke, continues as treasurer.
The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss current and emerging policy challenges, as well as to review the strategic imperatives in the new RISE strategic plan. Two of those imperatives — increasing collaboration and amplifying our collective impact as an industry — will be supported by new voter research the association will conduct after the November elections.
We are living in unprecedented times, where the value of pesticides has come into focus in a positive way. Let’s keep the conversation going by telling our story and building new relationships within and outside of our industry. The coming year’s challenges will be best addressed together, even if that means more screen and phone time. Until then, we look forward to a time when we can once again convene in-person as an industry.
PROVOST is president of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE). She may be reached at 202-872-3860 or RISE@pestfacts.org.