WASHINGTON, September 9, 2015 - There are a lot of issues facing agriculture today, and many of them will be on the docket when the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture gathers next week in Hawaii. In interviews with Agri-Pulse, state ag leaders from across the country discussed some of NASDA’s biggest priorities which are sure to draw discussion at their upcoming meeting - a three-day affair starting on Sunday.Clean Water Rule
ØWaters of the U.S. (WOTUS): Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said it’s “pretty universal” within NASDA that WOTUS went “too far, too fast.” He said the EPA’s Clean Water Rule should not have been implemented in its present form, and the lack of clarity from the EPA on a wide variety of subjects related to WOTUS is detracting from other efforts toward clean water in his state.
“It certainly comes up as we’re running around the state of Iowa talking about water quality issues,” Northey said. He expressed frustration that during talks aimed at finding improving water quality, “we’re having to talk about the uncertainty without a lot of answers on how WOTUS is going to be implemented.”
Iowa was not one of the 13 states NOT included in an injunction by a federal judge in North Dakota against WOTUS’ implementation, leaving the state and 36 others subject to the controversial rule. He said NASDA plans to push for greater guidance on how to deal with the rule, which went into effect on Aug. 28.
ØFood Safety Modernization Act. FMSA has been hailed by some as the most significant reform to the food safety system in years, but NASDA wants to make sure the changes are paid for. Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said full funding for FDA to implement the rules brought about by FSMA is a top priority for NASDA.
“If we want to do FSMA right, we have to have 100 percent funding to implement it correctly,” Coba said.
ØGMO labeling. NASDA is one of many agricultural groups supportive of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599), also known as the Pompeo bill for its sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and NASDA’s incoming president, said NASDA has a “a broad majority of . . . support (for) the policy for uniform labeling” called for in the Pompeo bill, which would circumvent state GMO labeling laws.
“NASDA works to support issues or act on issues that have broad consensus within our organization. That doesn’t mean 100 percent consensus because that’s nearly impossible,” he said. “There would be states that are supportive of their state’s position and we respect that.”
ØAvian influenza. Northey said there will be discussions on how collaboration between states could help mitigate issues including avian influenza.
“It’s very easy in the midst of an outbreak to be thinking about everything on your side of the border and how it could get within your borders,” said Northey who anticipates “a lot of conversation” about avian influenza at the meeting. “There’s certain ways that I think we can share resources. We at least need to know what’s going on in each other’s states, and I think we can create some opportunities to coordinate as well.”
A wave of avian influenza earlier this year caused the depopulation of more than 48 million birds, mostly in Iowa and Minnesota, but spread across 15 states. There is concern that wild birds will start a new wave of infections as they migrate south this fall.
ØPollinator health. Coba said discussion about pollinator health will likely be along the same vein as that of avian influenza, with states comparing their respective approaches and deciding what would be best in their own departments. She said despite the fact that pollinators affect specialty crops the hardest, states with more traditional commodity portfolios have still been supportive of the need for pollinator health strategies.
“I think we’re very united in our message that this is important,” Coba said. “And we care about it collectively for U.S. agriculture.” Coba said states will compare pollinator protection plans from both a technical and policy perspective. “I always look to steal good ideas . . . and I know my colleagues do the same thing.”
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