Regulation delays agricultural advancements

When asked about the state of the U.S. crop-protection industry, President and CEO of CropLife America, Jay Vroom, used words such as, “healthy, robust, forward-looking and extremely competitive.”

But in the next breath, Vroom expressed his concern about federal oversight hindering the industry’s continued progress in a recent podcasted Agri-Pulse interview.

According to CropLife America, “The overall goal of crop protection is to enable farmers to produce the best quality, highest-yield crops possible, in turn providing consumers with a safe, affordable and dependable food supply.”

Crop protection encompasses the research, development and application of pesticides and chemicals to accomplish four ultimate goals:
  1. Increased food production
  2. Decreased food-production costs
  3. Safeguard human health
  4. Cosmetic benefits
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) established pesticide regulation in the U.S. It has been updated and modernized since its institution in 1947.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has submitted proposals to Congress that would eliminate spray-drift applications and regulate pesticide applications within FIFRA. The EPA’s intent is to mandate permits for the use of pesticide products that are applied directly to water such as aquatic weed control and mosquito control. The EPA suggests a “zero tolerance” for spray drift that Vroom states is unrealistic.

Vroom thinks the EPA tactics put a “chokehold on modern agriculture.”

According to its site, CropLife America supports innovative technologies that promote spray-drift reduction and advocates for scientific research about spray drift effects, but opposes “zero-drift” policies that have already been acknowledged by EPA to set an impossible standard.

“The new label statements will help reduce problems from pesticide drift,” said Steve Owens, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “The new labels will carry more uniform and specific directions about restricting spray drift while giving pesticide applicators clear and workable instructions.”

The new instructions will prohibit drift that could cause adverse health or environmental effects, stated an EPA news release.

Vroom believes that increasing federal regulation is impacting crop-protection research and development costs, as well as the end-users of those products. He also believes many people “glamorize agriculture of the 50s and 60s” without regard to the benefits of modern advancements.

In a joint global study with the European Crop Protection Association, research revealed that the cost of “staying at the table,” in regards to crop-protection development, has increased as much as 40 percent within the past five years because of severe oversight and evaluation expenses.

According to data compiled in the CropLife 100 retailer survey, crop protection product sales fell $100 million to $6.4 billion in 2009.

“Every farmer out there has got to be engaged,” said Vroom, who said that it’s important for farmers to confront urban elites and environmental activists who are attempting to change the structure of the crop-protection industry, thereby threatening its progression at the expense of agriculture.

He described a state-management system as most effective for industry oversight, using adjectives such as “most steady,” “realistic” and “articulate” in comparison to federal control. He believes that everyone harnesses the power to influence the industry when making voting decisions, noting that society supports a logical regulatory system via state and federal elections.

He also believes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a responsibility to disseminate the significance of crop protection to society.

Vroom is hopeful for a management structure that is free of expensive, complex regulatory hurdles and allows the industry to be competitive and viable.

“We ignore the defense of modern agriculture at our own peril.”

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