ARA's Board of Directors met Feb. 22-24 in Washington, D.C., to discuss the organization's plans for 2010 and visit with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. Board members identified ARA's policy priorities for the coming year and also discussed upcoming plans for the ARA Conference & Expo, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, at the Westin Mission Hills Resort near Palm Springs, Calif.

Several government agency representatives and members of Congress served as guest speakers at the ARA meeting including Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee; Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.); Larry Minor, associate administrator for policy and program development with the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Larry Elworth, agriculture counsel to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson; and Dr. Joe Glauber, USDA chief economist.

ARA anticipates that 2010 will be an important year for legislation and rulemaking that affects retailers and distributors of crop inputs. ARA expects to see movement in transportation, environment, chemical security and tax issues.


Transportation

Currently, agricultural retailers and farmers enjoy an hours of service (HOS) exemption from the daily trucking time limitations within a 100 air mile radius during planting and harvest seasons, as defined by states. ARA is working to ensure that the exemption stays in place in the next highway reauthorization bill.

Recently, the HOS rule for transporting anhydrous ammonia was waived for the 2010 planting season. ARA has commended the Department of Transportation on this decision, but believes movement of all farm supplies from the terminal to the retailer should be exempted under the current rule. ARA continues to work with DOT to get movement of all farm supplies along the supply chain exempt from the HOS rule during planting and harvest seasons.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee introduced a bill to reauthorize the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The bill (S.2889) would enact STB and rail reform, which would make the STB more accessible and rail rates more transparent. ARA supports this bill and opposes rail policies that would hinder the ability to transport toxic by inhalation chemicals like anhydrous ammonia.


Environment

In November 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a Draft Pesticide Registration Notice on Spray Drift Labeling and Interpretation Guidance. ARA continues to work with EPA to change the draft guidance, which would leave agricultural retailers vulnerable to regulatory enforcement and citizen suit actions. Of specific concern is language that suggests enforcement action be taken if a pesticide application "may cause harm." ARA submitted comments to EPA expressing the retail industry's discontent with the proposed language, which is essentially a zero-drift policy. 

In 2010, there are several issues of concern involving the Clean Water Act (CWA). In January 2009, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an EPA rule that exempted Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) compliant pesticide applications from the CWA in a decision in the case the National Cotton Council v. EPA.

As a result, EPA is preparing a general National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit procedure for pesticide applications in, above or near water. The permits will be enforced beginning in April of 2011. ARA is working with EPA to develop the most easy to use and general permit possible. ARA is working with Congress to identify the possibility of a legislative fix.

The Clean Water Restoration Act (Senate Bill 787) would remove the word "navigable" from the definition of "waters of the United States" in the CWA if enacted. Removal of this one word would significantly increase the scope of waters able to be regulated under the CWA. ARA opposes this legislation.

EPA has begun the process of prescribing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) on nitrogen and phosphorus for states and regions. Traditionally, agriculture has been exempt from these requirements because agriculture return flows and storm water runoff are exempt from the CWA. However, there is a recent push by the administration to include agriculture nutrient use under the CWA. ARA will oppose federal efforts to prescribe state nitrogen and phosphorous TMDLs, which would result in a reduction in the farmer's ability to use crop nutrients.


Chemical Security

In 2010, Congress may pass legislation that will reauthorize the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). ARA supports a permanent authorization of the current CFATS program, but opposes efforts to include an inherently safer technology (IST) mandate, third-party enforcement provisions, information protection and weakening of federal preemption in the legislation. Unfortunately, the House passed a bill with these undesirable provisions If an IST mandate is able to stand, crop input chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia may be severely limited in use. 
  
ARA will continue to educate members of the Senate on this issue and encourage their support for S.2996, which reauthorizes CFATS  for five years. ARA also continues to work with the Department of Homeland Security and The Fertilizer Institute on the implementation of new ammonium nitrate registration regulations.


Taxes

In 2010, the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 are set to expire, increasing capital gains, dividends and alternative minimum taxes. In 2009, the estate tax was levied on estates exceeding $3.5 million at a rate of 45 percent. The estate tax is currently repealed for 2010, but unless Congress acts to increase the exemption or make the repeal permanent, the tax will be reinstated for estates valued over $1 million at a 55 percent rate in 2011. ARA will work with Congress to support a full repeal of the estate tax and support extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.  
ARA led the effort to secure the Agricultural Chemicals Security Tax Credit in the 2008 farm bill. Agricultural retailers, manufacturers, formulators, distributors and aerial applicators storing specified agricultural chemicals are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit of aggregate amount to $100,000 per facility and limited to $2 million a year per company. The tax credit will expire with the farm bill in 2012. ARA is beginning to work with Congress to extend the tax credit beyond 2012.

Any ARA member is welcome to attend an ARA board meeting. The next meeting will be held Sept. 20-22 in Sioux Falls, S.D.

For more information on ARA board meetings, contact the ARA office at (202) 457-0825.