[PCT on the Road] Sound Science, Industry Advocacy Take Center Stage at RISE Annual Meeting

Features - Industry Events

Specialty chemical industry representatives address pollinator health issue, regulation by letter, product restrictions, and local anti-pesticide regulations during three-day conference.

October 21, 2014
Dan Moreland

Acknowledging they’re in a battle for the “hearts, minds and votes” of Americans, more than 200 representatives of the specialty chemicals industry met in Tucson, Ariz., on the threshold of the mid-term elections at the RISE Annual Meeting to bring sound science to the public debate about a wide array of pesticide-related issues ranging from pollinator health and product restrictions to regulation by letter and water quality.

Outgoing RISE Governing Board Chairman Steve Gullickson said the association continues to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing regulatory landscape, but “we must continue to stay engaged and active in the issues” to protect the industry’s interests.

Towards that end, RISE President Aaron Hobbs urged attendees not only to get involved at the grassroots level, but to actively engage and recruit the next generation of industry leaders, a key priority of the association heading into its silver anniversary year in 2015.

Developing tomorrow’s leaders “is generating a lot of excitement and passion” at RISE, he said. “I look forward to the future of this industry and this association. I know it’s bright.”

Priority Issues.

Because RISE has limited financial resources and advocacy demands are great, RISE representatives collectively identify key “priority issues” at its annual meeting. Last year’s priority issues included pollinator health, product bans and restrictions, the Clean Water Act, regulation by letter, and various state and local anti-pesticide actions in California, Florida, New York, New England and the Pacific Northwest, “ground zero” of the pollinator issue in the United States.

RISE has aggressively defended the industry on all of these fronts, devoting more than $1 million in advocacy efforts in 2014, according to Karen Reardon, vice president of public affairs, RISE. “We are proactive about issue advocacy, building communities and using social media to tell our story,” she said. “We are reaching hearts and minds on issues with positive messaging and opportunities for people to become engaged with us.”

Gullickson said these advocacy efforts have paid off handsomely for the specialty chemicals industry this past year thanks to the efforts of the RISE staff and the grassroots involvement of its members, particularly on the pollinator issue, which continues to generate headlines in the consumer press.

“President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum in June directing government entities to develop a federal strategy to promote pollinator health,” Gullickson observed. “We have been engaged with the White House since the beginning of its process looking at pollinator health, participating in two meetings with White House staff this spring and providing them with resources and information on ways our industry is promoting pollinator health through its practices.

“The Presidential Memorandum includes many of the areas we suggested the White House direct its focus, including more research to better understand pollinator losses, developing a public education plan and seeking ways to increase and improve pollinator habitats,” he added. “And we continue to be engaged and seek opportunities to work with the White House on its pollinator health initiatives.”  

RISE also advocated on behalf of the industry on a number of other important issues, including the Clean Water Act. “One place we found success and are leading our industry is in our work on the EPA’s and the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed rule expanding the definition of ‘waters of the U.S.’ under the Clean Water Act,” Gullickson observed. “In May, we submitted a letter requesting a 90-day extension to the public comment period. Our voice was heard and EPA announced a 91-day extension to Oct. 20. This extension shows the power of grassroots advocacy and what a difference you can make when you get engaged with us and the work we do.”

RISE also made “regulation by letter” a priority this past year, again with positive results. “This issue addresses how EPA is increasingly seeking regulatory compliance outside of the FIFRA and Administrative Procedures Act (APA) by sending rule-making letters to registrants,” Gullickson said. “We honed in on this issue, highlighting its importance, and because of our successful identification of this major issue, it’s being worked on now by multiple industry leaders.”

Ultimately, Gullickson said, the success of RISE comes from the engagement of its members, as evidenced by the aforementioned actions in 2015. “We are a member-driven organization,” he said. “Serving on a committee or being engaged through grassroots is one of the best ways to be a leader, and get involved in the work we do. Our grassroots network is continuously expanding, and the more individuals that take action…the better!”

In concluding his remarks, Gullickson observed that the RISE staff is “in good shape,” the organization is “financially sound,” and the association’s grassroots efforts are “gaining ground every day.” However, he urged RISE members to be ever-vigilant. “Things that seem minor today will be in the middle of our radar tomorrow,” Gullickson said, so “get involved” and “be patient” because successful issues management takes significant time and substantial resources.


RISE Recognizes Schlossberg as 2014 Grassroots Excellence Award Recipient

During its 24th annual meeting, RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) recognized Mark Schlossberg, president of Pro-Lawn-Plus, with the 2014 Grassroots Excellence Award for his work on the front line in Maryland’s legislature and his advocacy for the industry on the local, state and federal levels.

As this year’s honoree, he’s been the catalyst for grassroots efforts in Montgomery County, Md., providing the contacts, organization and sense of urgency needed as RISE works to defeat lawn and turf restrictions being proposed in the county. Although Schlossberg resides in Baltimore County, he remains actively engaged by speaking with policymakers all across Maryland about green industry concerns.

Schlossberg provided written testimony to the House Small Business Committee about the potential negative consequences on small green industry businesses due to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed rule expanding the definition of ”waters of the U.S.” under Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

In presenting the award, RISE Governing Board Chairman Steve Gullickson said, “He is on the front line in Maryland’s legislature, showing up to speak for the industry and is actively engaged at the local level when bans and restrictions are being discussed.

“Whether we are working with individuals or our alliance partners, engagement by local industry leaders (like Schlossberg) and voters is the essential element to passing positive legislation and defeating harmful legislation — it is what drives our policy success,” Gullickson said.

“The most important part about engaging at the grassroots advocacy level is proactively speaking with our elected officials and regulators before a crisis occurs. Then, it’s about keeping in regular contact with those officials and regulators,” said Schlossberg.

“All sectors of the specialty pesticide industry should communicate and stick together. Even though a particular piece of legislation might not affect you directly or right now, you need to realize our adversaries may target your sector next,” he continued. 

Schlossberg has been president of the Maryland Association of Green Industries since 1994 and treasurer of the Maryland Green Industry Council — both long-time RISE allies. He is also the past president of the Maryland Turfgrass Council, a board member of the Maryland Agricultural Council and a member of the Baltimore County Planning Board.


Other Highlights.

Dan Gardner, author of the critically acclaimed book “Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear,” shared insights about how people respond to risk during a well-attended keynote address on the second day of the RISE Annual Meeting, a particularly relevant topic given the sensitive nature of the national debate about pesticides.

“From terror attacks to the war on terror, real estate bubbles to the price of oil, sexual predators to poisoned food from China, our list of fears is ever-growing,” he writes. “And yet, we are the safest and healthiest humans in history. Irrational fear seems to be taking over, often with tragic results. For example, in the months after 9/11, when people decided to drive instead of fly — believing they were avoiding risk — road deaths rose by more than 1,500.”

Gardner’s bottom line? Whether it’s the public debate about pesticides or the state of the economy, the worst thing we have to fear is fear itself.

The acclaimed Canadian journalist and author was followed on the program by Karen Reardon, vice president of public affairs, RISE, who updated attendees about 2014 New England state legislative sessions, maintaining state pesticide preemption, local bans and restrictions, and pollinator health.

“Applicators are so important to our success at the local and state and federal levels, working with us at the grassroots to tell their story about the benefits they deliver in our communities every day,” she noted. “Our challenges are numerous and are becoming more complex. However, our issue management approach, member engagement and grassroots have us well positioned.”

Economic Analysis.

The keynote speaker on the third day of the conference, Dr. Stephen Happel, professor emeritus at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, provided his analysis of the U.S. economy. “Hands down,” he said, Barack Obama has been “the worst president economically in the last 60 years,” citing anemic growth and continued high unemployment.

Happel described it as the “yes…but economy” where for every step forward, the country takes two steps back. “Yes, jobs are being created, but we’ve had slow growth in average hourly earnings. Yes, industrial production is up, but retail sales have been flat,” he observed. “It’s a two-step economy.”

Nonetheless, Happel is “more optimistic now than at any time in the last four years,” in large part because “there’s a very good chance the Republicans will maintain control of the House and gain control of the Senate,” he said, which should help the economy.

Also commenting on the political scene was David Crow, president, D.C. Legislative and Regulatory Services (DCLRS). He said while President Obama isn’t on the ballot for the mid-term elections, “his policies are,” which doesn’t bode well for Democrats.

Crow said people ask him all the time, “Have times ever been so partisan before?” He responds, “Yes, but not for 100 years. There have been more divisive times, but you have to go back to Abraham Lincoln.”

Crow said much of the dysfunction in our nation’s capital “is a reflection of us. Why is Washington so screwed up?” he asked. “It’s a perfect mirror of what’s going on in the United States. We are very, very polarized. The center spot, where deals are made, is gone.” As a result, Crow said, “It’s a very murky picture (politically) going into 2016.”


RISE Announces New Governing Board Members and Officers

During its 24th annual meeting RISE, (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) announced new officers and members elected to the 2014 Governing Board.

Dan Stahl of OHP Inc., was elected to a two-year term as chairman, and John Johnson of PROKoZ will take over as vice chair. Darren Horst of Central Garden & Pet will serve as the new treasurer. Four companies began new three-year terms on the Governing Board: Central Life Sciences, represented by Frank Jusich; PrimeraTurf Inc., represented by John Gertz; SePRO Corporation represented by Bill Culpepper; and WinField, represented by Kanchan Chavan.

Governing Board companies continuing their terms are AMVAC Chemical Corporation, represented by Jeff Alvis; Bayer CropScience, represented by Gilles Gaillou; BASF Corporation, represented by Jonathan Sweat; Central Garden & Pet, represented by Darren Horst; FMC Corporation, represented by Promad Thota; Monsanto Company, represented by Myron Richardson; PROKoZ, represented by John Johnson; and Syngenta Crop Protection, represented by Scott Reasons.

“This year Steve Gullickson, MGK, completed his two-year term as the Governing Board chair. Under his leadership we significantly expanded our regulatory practice and brought laser-like focus to the core activities that make us successful — accomplishing and ultimately exceeding the goals of our strategic plan,” said Aaron Hobbs, RISE president.

“Four Governing Board members also completed their terms and we thank Dow AgroSciences LLC, represented by Dave Morris; John Deere Landscapes, represented by Frank Bates; Helena Chemical Company, represented by Haverson Ward; and LiphaTech Inc., represented by Carl Tanner,” said Hobbs.

As the new chairman of the Governing Board, Stahl discussed his future goals for RISE. “Much like our industry, the issues we face continue to evolve. As the Governing Board chairman, I believe in order to move forward we must continue to build membership engagement, grassroots and increase our influential presence on social media.”

The RISE Governing Board engages in strategic planning and thinking, and sets the direction of the association, making sure the right programs and resources are in place.


What's Ahead?

While the future may be murky politically, that’s not the case for RISE. Gullickson said he was pleased to hand off leadership of the Governing Board to Dan Stahl, vice president of marketing and business development, OHP Inc. “He will be a great chairman and a super resource for Aaron Hobbs and RISE to lean on. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to fill the chairman seat for the past couple years,” he said.

In his initial comments as the new Governing Board Chairman, Stahl said RISE “is a great training ground for our industry and our individual organizations. From my view, we have a well structured, well run, evolving industry. None of that means anything, however, if we’re not effective at the implementation side,” he warned.

Therefore, it’s essential that RISE continue to “build its bench,” developing the next generation of leaders to “remain a relevant, robust and vibrant association,” Stahl said.


To view a slide show of the RISE Annual Meeting visit the Online Extras section of the PCT homepage.

The author is publisher of PCT magazine.