Legislative Day 2022 Provides Advocacy Opportunities on Multiple Fronts

Pest management professionals can be involved in-person and virtually for this year’s Legislative Day activities.

Capitol Building
U.S. Capitol building.
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WASHINGTON - Since its first event in 1988, the National Pest Management Association’s annual Legislative Day, lead-sponsored by FMC, has become one of the association’s most important endeavors for promoting and protecting the pest control industry.

During the course of two days, attendees hear from dynamic speakers — both from the industry and from outside the industry — review pressing regulatory and legislative issues, and meet with fellow delegates to strategize prior to Capitol Hill visits. The visits are an opportunity to have the pest control industry’s voice heard on current and possible forthcoming issues that impact them. 

As was the case in 2021, this year, NPMA and its members are pivoting a bit as a result of COVID-19 concerns. This year’s Legislative Day, scheduled for March 13-15 at the Capitol Hilton, will be a “hybrid event” in the truest sense of the term. While programming and important pre-lobbying strategy meetings will take place in Washington, there will not be in-person Capitol Hill visits. Instead, following Legislative Day — on March 16 — pest management professionals will once again meet virtually with their U.S. House Representatives and U.S. Senators using the online platform Soapbox.

© PCT file photo, Brad Harbison
Jake Plevelich and Ashley Amidon.

NPMA Vice President of Public Policy Ashley Amidon laments that in-person visits will not occur this year; however, she said NPMA and its members saw the benefits of Soapbox last year, including immediacy. Once members left their virtual Capitol Hill visits they could immediately report back to NPMA officials using Soapbox. Plus, as Amidon noted, the silver lining of having meetings virtually last year was increased involvement. “We had participation from folks that might ordinarily not choose to come to D.C., or couldn’t come to D.C. because other folks in their company were already coming. Setting aside an hour or an hour and a half on a random Tuesday or Wednesday is a lot easier than coming in for a few days to D.C.”

It’s an interesting time for Legislative Day with the 2022 mid-term elections around the corner. While Democrats control both the House and Senate, margins are narrow in both Houses. Republicans believe they have an opportunity to take control of one, or both, Houses. NPMA Director of Public Policy Jake Plevelich also noted that the two committees NPMA deals with most regularly — the House and Senate Agriculture Committees — have members who are either retiring or are expected to be in tight re-election races, “so we certainly need to be engaged not just this year, but going into next year for the Farm Bill,” he said. “And we need to cultivate as many of those relationships for as long as possible as we get into our big Farm Bill push.” 

PREEMPTION AND 2023 FARM BILL. A challenge not going away anytime soon is preemption. For years, NPMA and other groups have urged Congress to codify the exclusive role of state lead agencies as pesticide co-regulators with EPA. Currently, 44 states have preemption, meaning the state lead agency preempts the local government when it comes to determining how pest control products and services are employed. For PMPs who operate in states without preemption, they are challenged with having to comply with different laws and regulations in each of the communities they service.

Plevelich used Southport, Maine, as an example of a community challenged by preemption. Maine has 30 local ordinances, none of which are enforced by the state. Southport, which has a population of about 550, banned all commercial and government pesticide applications in 1972. To Plevelich’s knowledge, the community does not employ any soil scientist, toxicologist or water quality specialist inspectors to meet the level of enforcement that the state lead agency brings. He said, “So, we’re pointing out that if you were to repeal preemption and allow local governments to regulate, there’s going to be a huge void” and that law-abiding, insured pest management professionals could be replaced by illegal operators and/or homeowners.

Currently, Plevelich cited California as a preemption hot spot. California has an obscure law that allows local governments to regulate pesticides within three miles from the coastline. For example, the city of Malibu received state approval to ban all pesticides, and “the only thing that they’re allowed to use are herbicides in an emergency situation, and they’re trying to do this all up and down the coast,” said Plevelich, who added that it is challenging enough to “play ball” with one legislature in California (Sacramento), and “trying to keep a lid on 30 different localities along the coast of California is an absolute nightmare for our industry.”

Plevelich also cited Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Colorado as preemption hot spots. He said NPMA and its members, via a grassroots campaign, are messaging legislators in these states to support of preemption.

“We need every single member to get off the sidelines and come participate in Legislative Day,” he said. “What you do up on the Hill and meeting with your Congresspeople, that’s going to have a downstream effect on the state, so it’s critical that we all meet the moment and participate in Legislative Day.”

NPMA views the 2023 Farm Bill as the best vehicle to push for nationwide preemption. The Farm Bill governs a range of agriculture and food programs, along with regulatory issues. It is renewed every five years, with the most recent Farm Bill (from 2018) expiring in 2023.

In 2018, NPMA and others worked hard to get national preemption in the Farm Bill. It had bipartisan support in the House, but ultimately was defeated in the Senate. As Amidon noted, “I know our industry is so proud of getting as far as we did in 2018, and we are really planning on building on those successes of 2018 and having 2023 be the year we get it in.”

PACTPA OPPOSITION. Closely tied to preemption is the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA). Introduced in the Senate in November by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), one of the most problematic provisions of this proposed bill is a nationwide repeal of preemption, which would allow every local community to enact legislation and other policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law.

The bill maintains that EPA “regularly fails” to protect consumers under the federal Fungicide, Rodenticide and Insecticide Act (FIFRA) as it makes decisions on “outdated science.” NPMA says the bill is intended to overleap the EPA registration process because members of Congress do not agree with the outcomes.

This legislation was introduced in both the House and the Senate last congressional session and expired along with all unpassed legislation at the end of the session. Much like last Congress, it is unlikely the bill will pass as-is, particularly given the tight vote margins in both Houses and the myriad of other legislative priorities policymakers have to deal with prior to the 2022 midterm elections. Pieces of it could be tucked into a larger piece of “must-pass” legislation, such as appropriations or a future reconciliation bill, so it’s essential to keep sponsors to a minimum, NPMA says.  

NPMA is working with allies in Washington to further understand the implications and viability of this bill. Although NPMA does note anticipate it will be passed into law in 2022, the association sees this as a foreshadowing of what’s to come in the future. NPMA staff will be making visits to lobby Senators against adding themselves as co-sponsors to this bill and working with the wider Pesticide Policy Coalition to present a united front opposing this bill on behalf of the regulated community. 

NPMA Legislative Day attendees will be asked to educate their legislators that despite its claim of protecting children, PACTPA includes arbitrary pesticides bans that have the potential to take away tools that PMPs need to safeguard people and property from pests.

EDUCATION. The pest control industry has done a great job positioning itself as protectors of public safety and health. Amidon said Legislative Day gives PMPs a great platform to educate their congressional representatives on this important role that they play.

“We will always have new staffers and new members of Congress that know nothing about our industry, so it’s really important to talk to them about what you do every day — the value you provide to your community,” she said.

Legislative Day provides opportunities to provide concrete examples, Amidon said. “Help them understand that we’re keeping [restaurant] kitchens clean; protecting their kids at school; and keeping rats from running around in their grandparents’ nursing homes. Tell them about all of the great work we do.” 

The author is managing editor of PCT.
 
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Other Highlights

In addition to Capitol Hill visits, NPMA Legislative Day has two full days of programming, including committee meetings, business-related sessions, lobbying strategizing gatherings and keynote sessions presented by high-profile political pundits.

A special guest speaker will present at the Monday morning breakfast sponsored by MGK. For the Monday luncheon sponsored by FMC, the keynote presentation will be a debate featuring former White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri and former U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). Also on Monday, author and CNN host Michael Smerconish will give a keynote presentation sponsored by Corteva Agriscience.

On Tuesday, war hero Matt Eversmann, who was portrayed by Josh Hartnett in “Black Hawk Down,” will give the keynote presentation sponsored by Control Solutions.
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