PCOs Head to the Hill in Full Force

PCOs Head to the Hill in Full Force

More than 400 industry professionals traveled to our nation’s capital for NPMA Legislative Day 2013.

March 22, 2013
Brad Harbison

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 400 pest control industry professionals traveled to our nation’s capital this week for Legislative Day 2013, sponsored by FMC Professional Solutions.

In the day-plus of activities, PCOs attended sessions on important business and tax issues and heard from prominent national speakers before heading to Capitol Hill to meet with their congressional representatives.

A highlight of this year’s Legislative Day was an appearance by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 Republican Party Vice-Presidential nominee. With his budget proposal awaiting a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ryan advocated his budget proposal by referencing one of his state’s PCOs. Ryan spoke of Charlie Fisher of Fisher Pest Control in Janesville, Wis., a second generation PMP who services Ryan’s home district. Ryan said family businesses like Fisher’s are what he and fellow House Republicans are trying to protect from burdensome taxes and regulations.

“Family business is what America is built on and right now Washington is not thinking about the Charlie Fishers in this country,” said Ryan. “We owe it to the next generation to do something to protect their future.”

ENCOURAGING WORDS. Prior to Ryan’s appearance PCOs were briefed about this year’s Legislative Day issues by Gene Harrington, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, and Bob Dold, Jr., president of Rose Pest Solutions and former House Rep (Illinois’ 10th district). Dold also focused some of his comments on the economy, suggesting this might be one way for PCOs to connect with their legislators. “What have we been talking about in Washington D.C. the last several years — jobs and the economy — and that is what you do. You are looking to grow. You are looking to hire. And that is music to their ears.”

Bob Dold Jr., provided Legislative Day attendees with dos and don'ts for Capitol Hill visits.

Dold had several interesting insights about lobbying having seen it from both sides of the fence. “The most effective lobbyists that I ever came to my office were those that got on a flight and came to the district, who took time off work and spent some of their resources on something that was so important that they wanted to tell me in person.”

Also, Dold recommended that PCOs familiarize themselves with not only the issues, but about their congressional representatives. “Pick and choose what you talk to them about,” he said. For example, Dold said if four issues were discussed at Legislative Day and you know that your rep might only be behind two of them, don’t waste your time on the other two.

NEW CONGRESS, NEW OPPORTUNITIES. Harrington also said PCOs should be encouraged by opportunities that the industry could be presented thanks to significant turnover in Congress.

“We are undergoing a congressional makeover the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long, long time,” he said. “One-sixth of the 113th Congress is comprised of brand new members.”

Broken down in to other terms, Harrington noted that the House Agriculture Committee — one of the committees that has jurisdiction over the pest control industry’s main issues — features 11 (out 21) new freshman Democrats, and 18 of the 25 Republican members on this committee have served less than three years. “We truly have an opportunity to meet and educate folks that are brand new and establish relationships from the ground floor. You help us extend our tentacles and reach folks that we can’t always reach.”

Harrington then reviewed issues Legislative Day attendees discussed with their legislators.

PESTT ACT. Introduced in the House in February by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Rep. Kurt Shrader (D-Ore.), the Pest Elimination Services Transparency & Terminology (PESTT) Act (H.R. 730) aims to limit USDA-Wildlife Services competition with the private sector for rodent, nuisance bird and wildlife work.

The issue stems from a 1987 law that authorized USDA-WS to work at non-agricultural settings. Although the main intent of the legislation was to permit WS to control birds at airports and engage in rabies control initiatives, the language was written very broadly.

Today, there is virtually no type of nuisance bird and wildlife management work that WS does not perform – regardless of whether area businesses also provide the same services. The only type of work WS is not authorized to perform is “urban rodent control.” That term is not defined in statute or regulation, however.

Harrington said NPMA had tried for many years to address these conflicts administratively with USDA prior to seeking this statute change. The two key components of the PESTT Act are: (1) to define the term “urban rodent control,” and (2) to direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) to write a report identifying activities WS performs that the private sector has the capability and capacity to perform and recommend ways to avoid competition between WS and the private sector, including further statutory changes. “In the House, we are asking that you ask your reps to sign on as co-sponsors to this bi-partisan legislation,” said Harrington. “In the Senate what you want to be asking is for them to sponsor a panding measure, and if they are not willing to take the lead, then to sign on as a co-sponsor when legislation is, indeed, introduced. Our ultimate goal is to get this legislation inserted into the farm bill.”

PAPERLESS REPORTING. Legislative Day attendees also encouraged their reps to  introduce or co-sponsor legislation that would permit – not mandate — pest control operators to convey and retain pesticide records, use reports, consumer info sheets or others, electronically.

In recent years, many pest control companies have gone paperless in order to save costs, increase efficiencies and promote professionalism. Unfortunately, a barrier that PCOs have run into is that some states mandate pest control operators provide a hard copy consumer information sheet (e.g., pesticide records, use reports, consumer info sheets, etc.) at the time of service, or after service. Many of these requirements were written in the 1970s and 1980s before people could imagine today’s technology.

The end result is that many companies have invested large sums of money to go paperless, yet they are unable to do so completely, because the state(s) in which they operate have mandated they provide hard copies.

“It’s created an operational for some of our member companies that operate in different states,” said Harrington.

Some companies have asked their state regulatory authority for clarification, but NPMA and its members believe this issue needs addressed federally.

SULFURYL FLUORIDE. Legislative Day attendees — specifically those involved in fumigation work — again made their representatives aware of what NPMA and others believe is U.S. EPA’s misguided proposed order cancelling the food uses for sulfuryl fluoride.

In 2004, EPA registered sulfuryl fluoride for control of insect pests in harvested and processed foods (e.g., cereal grains) and also in food handling and processing facilities. The fumigant is considered an alternative to methyl bromide, which is being phased out, and some groups in the food sector are now completely reliant on sulfuryl fluoride.

However, the product has come under attack from the activist group FAN (Fluoride Action Network), which has a waged a lengthy campaign to remove sulfuryl fluoride usage in food-processing facilities, and in January 2011 EPA announced it was taking steps to begin a phased-down withdrawal of sulfuryl fluoride. But even U.S. EPA acknowledges that sulfuryl fluoride contributes no more that 2-3% of the public’s exposure to fluoride, noting that “Use of sulfuryl fluoride is responsible for a tiny fraction of aggregate fluoride exposure,” and “Elimination of sulfuryl fluoride does not solve, or even significantly decrease, the fluoride aggregate exposure problems...”

•    At the Monday luncheon and keynote presentation, attendees hear from Laura Ingraham, a popular radio host and political analyst, who is a regular contributor on Fox News. Ingraham shared her political insights during a presentation sponsored by FMC Professional Solutions.
•    Bryan Cooksey, president of McCall Service, Jacksonville, Fla., was recognized with the FMC Legislative Day Award (click here to read the story). In addition to running McCall for 25 years, Cooksey is an ardent supporter of the pest management industry, focusing on regulatory and government affairs.
•    Leading anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Byron L. Dorgan debated some of the key issues facing America today, in a session sponsored by Dow AgroSciences.
•    Legislative Day included several educational sessions covering a variety of business issues important to the pest control industry, including “Obamacare” and “Complying with OSHA Regulations” and “Driver Safety.”
•    On Tuesday, PCT presented the 2012 Technician of the Year Awards. The awards, sponsored by BASF Pest Control Solutions, recognize a trio of service professionals in the residential, commercial and termite categories. The winners were:  Residential category — Colby McCarty, ABC Home and Commercial Services; Commercial category — Javier Rodriguez, Massey Services; and Termite category — David Hicks, Bug-Out Service.

PCT will have additional coverage of Legislative Day online and in print. — Brad Harbison, with additional reporting from Jeff Fenner.