AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — RISE and CropLife America have never been afraid to take on the big issues, whether it’s working with government officials to find solutions to complex regulatory issues relating to protecting public health and the environment or grappling with how to feed an exploding global population that is expected to top 9 billion people by 2050.
That’s why a well-attended general session titled “The Seven Revolutions” featuring Johanna Nesseth Tuttle of the Center for Strategic & International Studies proved so timely, as 500 industry executives traveled to Amelia Island, Fla., just a month before the U.S. Presidential election to chart the future of the chemical industry.
“What’s the world going to look like in the year 2030?” Tuttle asked those attending the bi-annual meeting of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) and CropLife America. How policy makers respond to seven key issues with global implications in the years ahead — population, resources, technology, economics, information, security and governance — will likely provide the answer to that question.
Tuttle said there will be opportunities for government and industry “to find new paths forward” and address the challenges of population growth, security, and other issues of importance to people around the globe, and chemical suppliers are going to play an important role in shaping that new world, although “the role that your industry plays is going to continue to be challenging” given the complex nature of the issues facing policy makers.
Still, there is reason for optimism if industry representatives stay actively engaged on issues of importance to them. “Our theme for this week — political campaigns of the past — also reminds us how important our individual and collective participation in the political process is — and how powerful it can be,” observed Dave Morris, outgoing RISE Governing Board Chairman and Commercial Leader, Pest Management and Turf and Ornamentals Business, Dow AgroSciences.
“We are also reminded this week, that speaking with one voice is essential, though we represent many categories of product use,” he said. “Whether we are speaking about our shared issues or about those that are unique to our category, each of us must be engaged in the conversation about our industry and the important benefits we deliver to communities and countries.”
Morris, who served as Governing Board Chairman for the past two years, said one of the first things he and RISE President Aaron Hobbs did upon taking on their new roles was attend an association management conference in Chicago.
Since then, Morris said, they have worked not only “in the association on issues,” but also “on the association in structure, focus and operating discipline,” creating a Strategic Oversight Council (SOC) as the association works towards becoming the catalyst for recognition of the human health and environmental benefits of pesticide products by legislators, regulators and the public they serve.
“The SOC gives us an internal GPS that helps us navigate successfully through our issues to determine what we will work on and what we won’t work on,” Morris observed. “The SOC is essential to keeping us focused on our issues and goals.”
“RISE is focused on providing an advocacy platform for the specialty products field,” added Jose Milan, chairman of the Strategic Oversight Council and Director of Green Business Operations, Bayer. “We start with the end in mind. Focusing on our goals guides our strategy and action plan development.”
Hobbs added that the SOC “has really done some great work” this past year. “They’ve helped us come together, integrating our approaches to issues management,” including the popular ‘Debug the Myths’ program (www.DebugTheMyths.com).
“I cannot overstate the strategic importance of leading and planning on a proactive and positive basis,” Morris said. “It is a game changer for us — and our entire industry. Our commitment to test and refine this approach through the Debug the Myths program over the past three years is paying real dividends on our investment.
“At RISE this year, we’ve continued our work to bring a positive and relevant voice to the conversation about our products at the local, state and federal levels,” Morris added. “Some of this work involved kicking the tires on RISE to ensure the association has the right resources to achieve our goals.” Through this discernment process, he said, the specialty chemical industry learned from policy makers three years ago it had “diminishing credibility” in the policy arena for two reasons:
• “Policymakers only heard from us when we didn’t like what they were doing; and
• They never heard from their constituents about why our products are beneficial and necessary.”
“The decision of the Governing Board to weave proactive capacity into the fabric of our advocacy, not only addresses those issues, but puts and keeps us in the conversation about our products and their many benefits,” he said.
Morris added that the association also has continued to expand its programming to reach more people with its message. “This year we held another successful and standing-room only event during the golf show and we had a grassroots seminar during New England Grows — the Northeast’s largest green industry show — to reach grassroots in that priority location,” he said.
“Grassroots is increasingly the engine that drives our advocacy. This year we had several opportunities to engage members, customers and friends on important issues like advancing NPDES legislation in Congress — though it’s still pending as we meet this week,” Morris said. “Fifty-two grassroots alerts were sent to some 2,000 advocates in our database over a two-day period on this issue with more than 500 sending a message to their senator supporting our legislation.”
In other RISE/CLA highlights, keynote speaker Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report, shared his thoughts on the presidential race and the state of American politics. Regardless of the outcome of the election, he said, there is much work to be done in Washington, particularly as it relates to the economy.
“After this election…I’m very worried about what’s going to happen at the end of this year and the beginning of next year,” he said. “When they (Congress) get back, if they don’t get a deficit package in place…you’re going to see some bad things happen. Can these folks get their act together?” Cook asked. “We’re now getting sort of close to judgment day.”
In closing the conference, RISE President Aaron Hobbs said the association’s longtime partnership with CropLife America “is a great thing for our industry,” allowing the two advocacy organizations to speak with one voice. “We have a lot of opportunity out there to change policy and change minds,” he said, but it requires active involvement by RISE members, a theme echoed by MGK President Steve Gullickson, incoming RISE Governing Board Chairman.
“We are a membership-driven organization,” Gullickson said. “I encourage you to stay engaged. The more bodies, the more minds we have involved, the more effective we’re going to be as an organization. I look forward to working with you. I look forward to working for you.”
RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) is the national trade association representing manufacturers, formulators, distributors and other industry leaders involved with specialty pesticide and fertilizer products and advocates on issues and research affecting the industry. To get involved or for more information about the organization, contact: RISE, 1156 15th Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20005, or phone 202/872-3860.
The 2013 RISE Annual Meeting is scheduled for Aug. 26-30 at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, Calif.