February 24, 2017

ARA Recognizes Blunt, Heitkamp for Legislative Efforts Supporting Agriculture

Agricultural industry continues to face federal regulatory challenges. Thankfully, agriculture’s allies in the U.S. Senate stepped forward.

The Agricultural Retailers Association recognized two legislators who have led efforts to defend the industry’s freedom to operate: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). Both were named ARA’s 2016 Legislator of the Year.

ARA recognized the senators for leading regulatory relief from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s illegal Process Safety Management retail exemption enforcement memo, legislative efforts to fix the unnecessary and duplicative permitting required by the National Pollution Distribution Elimination System and overturning the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States final regulations.

“It is an honor to present Sen. Blunt and Sen. Heitkamp with ARA’s Legislator of the Year award,” said ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock. “The work they did – across the aisle – to help block PSM enforcement, as well as fight against EPA’s WOTUS rule and NPDES has been invaluable to ag retailers. We appreciate their dedication and continued support for the agriculture industry.”Blunt

ARA presents its Legislator of the Year award annually to a member, or members, of Congress who champion legislation important to the agricultural retail industry. The awards were presented during the ARA Board of Directors and Committee Meetings in Washington, D.C.

Blunt accepted the award Monday evening and addressed ARA Board of Directors and Committee members.

“As the son of dairy farmers, I have a deep appreciation for the role agricultural retailers play in sustaining a thriving agriculture industry,” Blunt said. “Missouri has more than 100,000 individual farms that depend on agricultural retailers to meet their needs, and the last thing Washington should do is get in the way. I am honored to receive this award, and will continue working to rein in excessive, burdensome red tape and bring more transparency and accountability to the regulatory process.”

HeitkampHeitkamp, a member of the Senate Ag Committee, accepted her award Wednesday morning during the ARA Board of Directors meeting. In a short discussion with the board, she addressed PSM, WOTUS and agricultural trade.

“I’m proud to receive this award, but I’m even prouder of the work I spearheaded with North Dakota agricultural retailers to stop this standard from hurting our farmers and the rural businesses that support them,” Heitkamp said. “Had the rule gone into effect, it would have forced anhydrous ammonia retailers to shut down due to excessive compliance costs, forcing farmers to pay more and travel greater distances with anhydrous—and that certainly wouldn’t have increased safety. Going forward, I’ll keep fighting wrongheaded federal policies to make sure farmers, ranchers, and the businesses that support them continue to thrive.”

The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), a nonprofit trade association, advocates, influences, educates and provides services to support sellers of seeds, nutrients, crop protection products, farm equipment, precision technology and agronomic services. For more information, visit: www.ARADC.org.


“Tweaking” Trade Between Trump, Trudeau and NAFTA

white houseAfter his first face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, President Donald Trump said he only hopes for minor changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada, while he says his administration has a lot more work to do with Mexico.


Trump’s comments are likely to provide some relief to Canada’s business leaders, who have been anxious about the president’s repeated promises to renegotiate NAFTA or scrap it altogether.


Groups Urge Jeff Sessions to Oppose Agricultural Mega-Mergers

More than 300 farming, beekeeping, farmworker, religious, food safety, and conservation advocacy groups today urged the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation into the proposed mergers of the world’s largest agrochemical and seed companies. Groups urged Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General, to enjoin the mergers of Dow Chemical with DuPont, Monsanto with Bayer AG, and Syngenta with ChemChina on the grounds that they will drive up food and farming costs, threaten global food security, curtail innovation, threaten the health of farmworkers, and limit farmer choice. This letter comes on the heels of the Senate’s vote to confirm Senator Sessions to be the head of the Department of Justice. The letter was also delivered today to members of Congress and state attorneys general.

CapitolThe letter points to the adverse and wide-ranging consequences of these mergers stating that, “Conglomerates of such massive scale, breadth and reach, such as those proposed by these mergers, pose a real risk to our economy, to our agricultural sector, to public health, to food security, to the environment and to the general health of the agricultural and food business climate. Dominance of this magnitude can pose both domestic and international consequences that would be irreversible, once set in motion.”

Farmers and their allies across the country implored the new Attorney General to block the merger.

“Farmers across the country know that these mergers will result in fewer options and higher prices for the inputs we rely on. Already, a third of what a farmer makes for a corn harvest goes to pay for the seed alone; in the end there is nothing left for the farm family. We’ve seen what happens when too few companies control too much of the market, and these mergers would only make a bad situation worse,” said Mike Weaver, president, Organization for Competitive Markets.

“The decline in the quality of plant breeding for conventional varieties and the corresponding increase in the use of crop chemicals will continue, as the merged companies narrow their interests yet further to a few number of products likely to bring in the greatest profit for those biotech companies. The past two decades have shown us that herbicide-resistant GMO seeds have been the favorite for companies like Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta because they boost the sale of pesticides, “said Aaron Lehman, a grain farmer and president of Iowa Farmers Union.

“These agrichemical company mergers would be harmful for our environment, farmers and the American public,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner, Friends of the Earth. “We call on Sessions to put the interests of the American people, workers and farmers above the interests of mega corporations and conduct an independent review process free of political interference.”

“These mergers will hurt honey bees and native pollinators by making it harder for farmers to secure diverse seeds that are not coated in bee-killing pesticides or engineered to withstand multiple doses of herbicide applications,” said Michele Colopy, program director, Pollinator Stewardship Council, a national group that representing beekeepers and beekeeping organizations. “This merger makes it harder for farmers to gain access to the seeds they need to farm more sustainably. Seeds produced by a pesticide company may be engineered to cope with the pesticides, but honey bees cannot take increased pesticide exposure.”

“These mergers pose an ever greater threat to the health, livelihoods and human rights of farmworkers who are on the front lines of toxic agricultural chemical exposure,” said Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida. “These proposed mergers only puts more power and influence on the side of agribusiness, which contributes to but does nothing to pay for the health impacts on families of the chemicals they produce. People should not pay with their health and lives for the profits of these mega-corporations.”

“The concentrated corporate control of seed markets threatens farmers’ traditional practices of developing, saving and exchanging locally-adapted seed in the United States and around the world, practices that support the biological diversity and ecological resilience critical to addressing local and global food needs,” said farmer Denise O’Brien, founder of Women’s Food and Agriculture Network and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America board vice-president.

If all three deals were to close, the newly created companies would control nearly 70 percent of the world’s pesticide market, more than 61 percent of commercial seed sales and 80 percent of the U.S. corn-seed market. A combined Bayer AG-Monsanto company would control 70 percent of the southeast cottonseed market and could increase the price by over 18 percent.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Senator Sessions about his views on these mergers and his approach to anti-trust matters during his confirmation hearings. His answers were evasive and vague.

Groups expressed concern during the confirmation process that Senator Sessions would allow politics to interfere with the review of these mergers; especially given Donald Trump’s meeting with Bayer and Monsanto Executives in January and Trump’s appointment of Dow CEO Andrew Liveris to lead the American Manufacturers Council in December.