ARA: Playing the best hand with cards you’re dealt
The road to passage in the House was far more interesting as we saw many amendments offered to fundamentally change programs, such as dairy, and make work requirements mandatory for the receipt of nutrition benefits. This ultimately led to an overwhelming defection from Democrats and many Republicans that caused the bill’s first attempt on the House floor to fail. When House leadership removed the nutrition title and made another attempt to move the same farm programs, it marked the first time in the 113th Session that House Republicans united as a conference to pass legislation as a majority. Although it was partisan, that vote was a useful tool to get the bill to the Senate in hopes of an eventual conference to reauthorize the farm bill.
ARA has significant interest in passage of the 2013 farm bill and has made many strides in seeing membership policy goals achieved. If passed, we are likely to see the preservation of a strong crop insurance program, a potential reduction in the regulatory burdens our industry faces and many needed reforms within the conservation title. These reforms include a reduction in the acreage cap in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), possible contract flexibility with an early opt-out option and changes to the Technical Service Provider (TSP) program that will allow all industry representatives to participate in conservation partnerships. Finally, ARA has pursued an amendment that would help to protect agricultural products from inaccurate assumptions and improper perspective from agencies when it comes to the issuance of security regulations.
Water quality issues will yet again be another major issue for the agricultural industry to contend with in 2013. A major priority carried over from 2012 is the ongoing battle against the implementation of a pesticide general permit (PGP) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for aquatic pesticide applications. Over the past few years, our industry has been fighting for legislation that would eliminate the need for CWA NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permits that are FIFRA compliant (Federal Fungicide, Insecticide and Rodenticide Act). This is a very costly and unnecessary redundancy that adds stipulations to a regulation applicators are currently in compliance with, and it is imperative this is included in the farm bill.
Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) development continues as the EPA’s vehicle to regulate nutrients in bodies of water. Over the years, we have seen TMDL’s develop in places such as the Chesapeake Bay, the western Lake Erie basin, and other watersheds in order to regulate the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment a body of water may contain. More time has passed and ARA remains skeptical of the data and methodologies that are being used to determine thresholds and a national criteria for water quality standards. Because the agriculture sector’s impact on water quality is often overestimated, ARA supports industry initiatives with retailers to improve water quality and continues to work with other groups and associations, such as TFI and the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) to promote the adoption of 4R and other best management practices with growers.