A record number of ARA members and representatives from several state and national associations visited the offices of nearly 70 U.S. senators and representatives on Feb. 12. The Hill visits were held in conjunction with ARA’s board of directors and committee meetings, Feb. 11-13, in Washington, D.C. The meetings in Washington also included the appointment of new ARA officers and an opportunity for ARA members to hear from several guest speakers.
During the board meeting, ARA’s policy priorities were discussed for the coming year. The board reviewed priorities focused on environment and stewardship policies, security issues, transportation concerns, the farm bill, policies that support a pro-growth economic agenda, labor and Occupational Safety & Health Administration concerns and energy issues. Prior to Hill visits on Feb. 12, board members and representatives from state and national associations participated in an issues briefing covering these topics.
“In February, ARA board members, along with representatives from other state and national associations visited staff and leadership from the House Ag Committee and the offices of congressmen and senators in 20 states,” said Daren Coppock, ARA president and CEO. “We commend the time and effort contributed by everyone who participated in the Hill visits. It’s extremely valuable for our nation’s leaders to hear from individuals in the states they represent who are directly impacted by the policies they are making.”
ARA appreciates the generous support of the following companies that sponsored the ARA February board meeting: Ag1Source, BASF, Bayer CropScience, BMO Harris Bank, CF Industries, Cheminova, Dow AgroSciences, Helena and John Deere.
NEW ARA OFFICERS
A few new ARA officers were elected after vacancies were created recently in two of the officer positions. The previous Chairman-Elect Tommy Brandenberger with Simplot (formerly Migl Feed & Grain) resigned, moving Gary Farrell of Ag Enterprise Supply, Inc. from the position of vice chairman to the role of chairman-elect. Dave DuFault with Simplot was elected vice chairman. Near the end of last year, Bob Trogele with FMC vacated his role as ARA secretary/rreasurer, Mark Sharitz with AGCO was elected to fill this position. Johnny Council with The Lyman/Tremont Group remains the 2013 ARA board chairman.
GUEST SPEAKERS ADDRESS KEY ISSUES
The ARA Board Meeting included presentations from several guest speakers including representatives from major sponsors of the meeting national associations.
ARA appreciates the support of Bayer CropScience, the sponsor of a reception and board dinner at the meeting. Jean Reimers, director of government relations with Bayer CropScience provided a short presentation to ARA’s board of directors over dinner and shared an update on efforts currently underway by Bayer to evaluate pollinator health issues. She shared with the group latest scientific research showing that poor bee health and colony losses are actually the result of multiple factors, with the parasitic Varroa mite being a key issue. Bayer CropScience is very committed to supporting the responsible use of all crop protection products and invests heavily in product stewardship and research activities to minimize any impact of these products on bees.
During a luncheon, ARA board members had the opportunity to hear an insightful presentation from Steven McManaman, managing director at BMO Capital Markets in Chicago. McManaman and ARA member Jennifer Wendrow represented BMO Harris Bank at the meeting. McManaman joined BMO Capital Markets in 2000, serving in a variety of roles, most recently co-head of U.S. Corporate Financial Products, responsible for structuring and originating equity-linked and preferred share financings and derivatives strategies across asset classes. He has a Bachelor of Science from Marquette University and holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. McManaman shared with the group key factors impacting the health of the U.S. and global economy and the role that uncertainty is playing in today’s volatile market movements.
On the last day of the board meeting, attendees enjoyed breakfast sponsored by Ag 1 Source and a presentation from Mike Smith, president and managing partner with Ag 1 Source, a recruiting firm focused on the agriculture industry. Smith’s presentation, titled “Surviving the Storm: Recruitment and Retention Strategies for Businesses of Every Size,” hit on a significant challenge for many agricultural retailers today.
Smith provided some key statistics related to geography, education and employees retiring in the current workforce and how those factors play a role in the current unemployment rate. He also provided a number of ideas for how companies can weatherproof their business through reducing turnover, relocation and training programs, and succession planning. The topic of attracting and retaining quality employees is also likely to be an issue covered during a session at the 2013 ARA Conference, Dec. 3-5 in Miami, Fla. For more information on Ag 1 Source, visit www.ag1source.com.
At the full meeting of the board of directors, presentations were also made by Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America and Andy LaVigne, president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). Vroom gave an update on pollinator health news, the Endangered Species Act and CLA’s recent communications outreach activities. Andy Lavigne from ASTA discussed the Bowman v. Monsanto suit, patent expiration issues and seed treatment concerns.
REP. JOHN MICA AND SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR NAMED 2012 ARA LEGISLATORS OF THE YEAR
ARA also named Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) the association’s Legislators of the Year during the board meeting. This award is given annually to a member, or members, of Congress who work closely with ARA in helping to champion legislation important to the agricultural retail industry.
The efforts of Mica and Klobuchar help to address many key transportation and infrastructure issues that have a direct impact on the competitiveness and economic well-being of the agriculture industry.
“It is an honor to recognize Congressman Mica and Senator Klobuchar with ARA’s Legislator of the Year award,” said ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock. “Their leadership resulted in the passage of critical legislation on several issues important to ag retailers, including the Hours of Service exemption for agriculture. We appreciate their dedication and continued support for the agriculture industry.”
As an outcome of Rep. Mica’s term as chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in the 112th Congress, and Sen. Klobuchar’s work in the Senate, a two-year reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Bill was passed last summer that covered many key transportation needs for the industry, including clarification to the Hours of Service exemption. This critical exemption now applies to the transportation of all farm supplies, including the movements from distribution point to retailers, as well as across state lines where both states have already adopted the exemption.
“Working with ARA, we have made progress with transportation reforms to aid movement of products, commodities and meeting modern industry needs,” said Rep. Mica. “It has been my honor to assist ARA and its membership on these successes, and now we must roll up our sleeves to make ARA members and their industry prosperous.”
Sen. Klobuchar was not available to attend the ARA board meeting. The Legislator of the Year Award was presented to her later.
Additional photos from the ARA Board Meeting are available on ARA’s Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/AgriculturalRetailersAssociation. For more information on current legislative and regulatory issues impacting agricultural retailers, visit www.aradc.org.