A Push for Preemption
NPMA's Ongoing Efforts in the 2023 Farm Bill
ANDY ARCHITECT, NPMA Chief Operating Officer
Every five years, Congress takes up and must pass the reauthorization of the U.S. Farm Bill. This massive piece of legislation is a bi-partisan effort to ensure that the American Agriculture industry is funded for the following half decade. While heavily agriculture-focused, this bill is paramount to the structural pest control industry because it governs the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which is the law of the land for many of the products our industry uses. Additionally, this is the top vehicle for passing pesticide preemption (see sidebar) at a federal level, allowing only state lead agencies and not localities to regulate the sale and use of pesticides.
This bill is typically a negotiation of the "Four Corners"—the Chair (majority party) and Ranking Chair (minority party) of the House and Senate Ag Committees. Upon the drafting of this article, these four individuals are Representative David Scott (GA), Representative Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA), Senator Stabenow (MI) and Senator Boozman (AR). Input is also given by all committee members of these two groups from both the Democrat and Republican sides. Historically, Republicans have been supportive of federal preemption, with Democrats being opposed because liberal cities are typically the localities that want to ban pesticides within their borders.
In 2018, NPMA was successful in working with members of the House and Republican supporters to get pesticide preemption in the base text of their version of the Farm Bill. However, during the 2018 Farm Bill, a lot of energy from both parties was spent negotiating the fourth version of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA 4). PRIA is a bill that essentially sets the fees paid by pesticide registrants, which help to fund the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Typically, this is a bi-partisan bill, agreed on by industry and NGOs, with both seeing the value in having a more robust EPA that can evaluate pesticides and also ensure new technologies are reviewed more quickly than if PRIA did not exist. Due to negotiations (and some disagreements), PRIA 4 took longer than anticipated and many other requests, including NPMA’s preemption language, were dropped in the Senate.
Fast forward to 2022, and there are a handful of differences leading into the 2023 Farm Bill. At the time of writing, PRIA 5 (which also needs to be re-authorized every five years) appears to have enough support that it will likely pass prior to the Farm Bill. This opens up the doors for a lot more provisions being inserted into the Farm Bill. Additionally, in 2022, NPMA worked with Illinois Representative Rodney Davis to introduce a stand-alone pesticide preemption bill. With 15 co-sponsors, NPMA’s policy staff have seen a strong willingness by Republicans, particularly those on the Ag Committee, to get behind this language. Additionally, NPMA was able to get nearly 175 organizations, including NASDA, AAPCO, ASPCRO, the American Farm Bureau and many others to sign a letter supporting this effort. Knowing that it is not just our industry but many applicator groups that use similar products, it carries a lot of weight with members of Congress.
Second, NPMA, working in collaboration with members of our Public Policy Committee, voted to retain Forbes-Tate partners, a bi-partisan D.C. lobbying firm to assist with preemption efforts in the Farm Bill. When NPMA first attempted to get preemption in the 2018 Farm Bill, significant time was spent working with Republican members of the House. Realizing that more groundwork needed to be done with Democrats, particularly in the Senate, NPMA members wanted a multi-dimensional effort, requiring a firm that had connections across the aisle.
Finally, NPMA spent time shoring up support at the end of 2022. Thanks to the leadership of Lanny Allgood with Cingo and Justin McCauley with McCauley Services, NPMA hosted meetings with Congressman Rick Allen and Senator John Boozman at these respective facilities during the October recess.
While there’s still a lot of work to be done and a heavy lift to get this legislation over the finish line, we do have a good deal of momentum before the 2023 Farm Bill is voted on, likely in the fall or winter of 2023. However, we do need your help. Whether it’s filling out grassroots campaigns (and sharing them with your employees), attending NPMA’s Legislative Day on March 12-14, 2023, in Washington, D.C., or simply creating or strengthening your relationship with your elected officials, this effort will take the full industry working in unison to be successful. We anticipate firm opposition from anti-pesticide activists and likely from mayors groups and the League of Cities. However, we know the message that our essential industry carries of protecting public health and property from the diseases and destruction caused by pest infestations will go a long way in helping legislators make the right decision in 2023.
What is Pesticide Preemption?
Pesticide preemption means that only the designated state lead agency (i.e., Virginia Department of Agriculture) can regulate the sale and use of pesticides, preempting localities (i.e., Richmond) from banning pesticides used within that locality’s borders.
What States Have Pesticide Preemption?
Currently, 46 states have express or implied pesticide preemption as the state law. Four states (Alaska, Maryland, Maine and Nevada) do not. While this is a minority of states where localities can impose their own rules, we are becoming increasingly concerned about ongoing efforts by anti-pesticide activists to roll back preemption in many states each year.
Why Should I Care?
If a state were to roll back preemption, it would be very difficult to track what rules each locality has put in place. If your technician does an average of 8-10 stops per day and has to know not only which county they currently are in but also which products and processes they can employ, it makes it very burdensome. Additionally, having to service a fast-food chain differently in different parts of the state creates a level of service that becomes very different. The same goes for hospitals, senior centers, food processing facilities and other places where pest control is a vital service in protecting people and property.