Commodity groups have ‘good dialogue’ with Vilsack, Jackson

By Jon H. Harsch & Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, March 25 – Leaders from six of the nation’s largest commodity organizations met with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson this morning to discuss concerns about upcoming federal regulations. Secretary Vilsack organized the meeting following a discussion he had with some of the same farmer leaders at the Commodity Classic earlier this month. Farmer leaders of the American Soybean Association (ASA), the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), the National Sorghum Producers (NSP), USA Rice Federation, and National Cotton Council attended, along with key staff.

National Corn Growers Association President Darrin Ihnen said the closed-door, hour-long meeting produced some “good dialogue” on atrazine, biotechnology, seed industry regulation, the Clean Water Act and pesticide applications. He was glad that both Vilsack and Jackson took the commodity groups’ comments to heart.

“The key is dialogue,” explained Ihnen. “They want to hear from us and we need to be part of their structure. It’s our job to continue to work with them and make sure they understand the growers’ perspectives.”

Among the topics discussed at today’s meeting was the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling [National Cotton Council vs. EPA], that held that agricultural pesticide applicators, state pest controllers and others who spray pesticides on or near water will no longer be exempted from having to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, even if they follow all label and application requirements. EPA estimates that the ruling will apply to some 5.6 million annual pesticide applications for 365,000 applicators. The court granted EPA a two-year stay to April 2011, to give it time to develop a permitting program. EPA is expected to propose a rule in April 2010, and finalize it in December 2010.

“ASA believes that EPA must take great care in crafting a rule to minimize needless regulation and avoid forcing farmers to obtain permits for applying fully-approved crop protection products according to label directions,” commented Dodson. “Adding new regulatory and permitting steps would decrease the ability of U.S. farmers to produce safe and abundant food. This entire direction taken by the court also opens up the possibility that producers would incur huge costs defending against nuisance citizen suits.”

Ihnen said: “We were glad to hear that the EPA does not want to get in a position where they have to issue millions of permits to growers affecting spray drift.”

Gerald Simonsen, Board Chairman for the National Sorghum Producers, agreed that the meeting was very encouraging. 

“We got the impression that they want to be fair and work through all of the concerns on from both sides,” said Simonsen. “There are environmental groups and others who have concerns and rightfully so. The environment is important; their food is important. . . At the end of the meeting we felt better. We all have same goals in mind for agriculture to be profitable and to have a future.”

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