[Legislative Day] New Congress, New Opportunities

Features - Legislation

NPMA Legislative Day 2013 offers PCOs a chance to forge relationships with the new-look Congress.

February 26, 2013

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 Republican Party Vice-Presidential nominee, will be speaking at Legislative Day.

While the goal of those attending NPMA’s 2013 Legislative Day remains the same — to raise awareness with their legislators about issues impacting the pest control industry — what’s different about this year’s event is that there are real opportunities to make inroads thanks to a new-look Congress.

The 113th Congress includes a U.S. House of Representatives with one-third of its 435 members having less than three years experience. In 2010, 96 freshmen were elected, followed by the victorious campaigns of 84 newcomers last November, totaling 180 new members the last two election cycles. The Senate has seen similar turnover, with 12 new senators being elected in 2012 on top of 13 freshman senators that won election in 2010. Also, many of the House members elected in 2010 and 2012 will soon chair key subcommittees that have jurisdiction over issues that impact the professional pest management industry. 

“We have an increased opportunity to establish relationships with people who will, in just a few years, hold major positions of influence,” said Gene Harrington, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association.

Harrington added that there also is a generational shift in Congress. Long-serving members such as Ted Kennedy, Arlen Specter, Bob Dole and Daniel Inouye are gone. In fact, only one member of Congress (Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J.) served in World War II.

“It’s a new day for Legislative Day, too,” said Harrington. “For those who attended Legislative Day in the past and were frustrated by their visits, they should know that there truly are opportunities with this Congress, but Bob [Rosenberg, NPMA executive vice president] and I can only do so much. We really need Legislative Day attendees to extend our [reach] to places we don’t have the time and ability to get to, and establish relationships.”

In addition to developing these relationships, Legislative Day attendees will be raising awareness about the following issues impacting the pest control industry.

PESTT Act. Legislative Day attendees will be asking their legislators to support the PESTT (Pest Elimination Services Transparency and Terminology) Act. Introduced in the House late last year by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Rep. Kurt Shrader (D-Ore.), the legislation 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 USDA-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 USDA-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, however, is not defined in statute or regulation.

Harrington said PCOs have long complained about these types of conflicts.

Ohio County Moves Forward with New Pesticide Use Measures

In April 2012, the Cuyahoga County Council passed pesticide use restrictions that apply to the county’s 66 buildings (including interiors), their lawns and the wide swaths of open space at Whiskey Island and the Cuyahoga County Airport.

While these type of ordinances are not out-of-the-ordinary, what is unusual is that Cuyahoga County (which includes the city of Cleveland) has taken the next steps by implementing the ordinance and contracting with a pest control company that undoubtedly bid the work at a much higher cost (because of the pesticide use restrictions).

According to Gene Harrington, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, “The Cuyahoga County issue was interesting because (a) they were willing to pay the increased costs; and (b) it was so broad. What usually happens is that when local governments pass these types of ordinances they get ignored or never implemented, but in this case Cuyahoga said, ‘We’ll go ahead and pay many more times what a normal pest control contract would be.’” Additionally, council approved a partnership with the Cleveland arm of Emerald Cities, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes environmentally friendly initiatives. — Brad Harbison

Mike Givlin, vice president, North American Bird Program, The Steritech Group, said, “They are a regulator that also competes head to head with us. It is incredibly hard to get business or maintain business when the regulator is also providing the service. It is an inherently unbalanced playing field.”

For example, Givlin said Steritech might handle an account’s pest control services, but USDA-WS will be under contract for the bird work. Steritech would have a difficult time outbidding USDA-WS, a not-for-profit service organization.

Dan Master, Critter Control of Greater Boston, related the following conflict: Master was called to remove 50+seagulls from the roof of a large retail store so the AC units could be serviced during a heat wave. Master called USDA-WS, which informed him that he would need a depredation permit, which would take 30 to 60 days, “but (the WS employee) could come out and pick up the eggs and nests on his ‘emergency permit’ for a fee (about $800),” recalled Master, who proceeded to pay USDA-WS the fee. Master has since applied for and received the permit. “When [the USDA-WS employee] called to tell me my permit was in, he said that if I wanted him to keep doing the depredation, he would do it for $200 a trip if it was on my permit. So, when they have a monopoly on the permit, they price gouge; when the job is open to competition, they are competitively priced.”

Harrington said NPMA has 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.

Harrington said the original PESTT Act died when the 112th Congressional session ended, but Mulvaney and Shrader are expected to re-introduce the PESTT Act in February with additional co-sponsors.

Sulfuryl Fluoride Food Uses. Legislative Day attendees — specifically those involved in fumigation work — will again be making their representatives aware of what NPMA and others believe is U.S. EPA’s misguided proposed order cancelling the food uses for sulfuryl fluoride,

The product has come under attack from the activist group FAN (Fluoride Action Network), which has 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 percent of the public’s exposure to fluoride.

Harrington said that this issue is essentially in a “holding pattern,” as EPA is in the process of reviewing comments.

Paperless Reporting. In recent years, many pest control companies have gone paperless in order to save costs, increase efficiencies and promote professionalism.

A barrier PCOs have run into is that some states mandate they 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. “A lot of these requirements were written in the 1970s and 1980s, before people could imagine the technology of today,” said Harrington.

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) they operate in have mandated they provide hard copies. Some companies have asked their state regulatory authority for clarification, but NPMA and its members believe this issue needs addressed federally. “At Legislative Day 2013, NPMA members will be seeking support from federal lawmakers for legislation that would permit — not mandate — pest control operators to convey and retain pesticide records, use reports, consumer info sheets or others, electronically.”

Featured Speakers.
As in years past, Legislative Day will feature a top-notch speaker lineup, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 Republican Party Vice-Presidential nominee. Another featured speaker is Laura Ingraham, the radio host and political analyst. Her presentation is sponsored by FMC Professional Solutions.

Attendees will also hear from Chuck Todd, NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent. The political journalist, will provide his political perspective in a session sponsored by Dow AgroSciences.

For more information about Legislative Day visit www.npmapestworld.org.

The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT magazine.