The National Cotton Council monitored court cases, agency rulemaking and numerous regulations that potentially could prevent cotton producers’ access to necessary tools that affect their profitability.
■ What were some major regulatory issues addressed in 2020?
The NCC’s comments to the Environmental Protection Agency on regulatory transparency suggested that research models should be scrapped if the agency’s data do not match actual field results.
We also responded to the much-welcomed Administration-published report, “Regulatory Relief To Support Economic Recovery,” that stated agencies should rescind, modify, waive or provide exemptions from regulations/other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery.
Regarding specific rules, the NCC applauded the EPA/Army Corps of Engineers’ Navigable Waters Protection Rule that streamlined the “waters of the United States” definition. However, we continue to monitor the rule’s implementation to ensure it gives producers clarity and regulatory certainty.
Comments also were filed on: 1) EPA’s proposal to increase consistency/transparency and its consideration of cost/benefits in Clean Air Act rulemaking; 2) the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed definition of habitat and its proposed rule, Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants — Regulations for Designating Critical Habitat; and 3) proposed changes to the Worker Protection Standards, specifically suggesting that the application exclusion zone be wind-directional to make it comparable to normal, stationary buffer zones.
The NCC joined 300-plus agriculture and conservation organizations on a letter to all congressional members affirming support for pesticide regulations in place under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
■ What about crop protection product support?
At a Senate committee hearing, the NCC noted the lack of stakeholder input into an EPA proposal that would regulate “plant incorporated pesticides.”
Work with EPA led to the approval of Bt cotton label amendments enabling all U.S. producers to plant Bt cotton products without a structured refuge. We also engaged with EPA on crop protection product registrations affecting efficient cotton production. That included our effort to preserve dicamba availability.
We sent letters to EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler: 1) discussing the benefits to producers from the newer dicamba formulations and their use for in-crop, over-the-top weed control; 2) urging the allowance of dicamba existing stocks use and/or other administrative action to allow producers to legally implement weed control programs in 2020 using that important herbicide; and 3) citing the need for a timely 2021 registration of dicamba herbicide formulations.
EPA responded by not only maintaining dicamba stocks use for the 2020 growing season but granting a new five-year label.
The NCC also worked with EPA on the agency’s scientific review of chlorpyrifos and submitted comments supporting registrations of many other products.
Among them are dimethenamid/dimethenamid-P (15 herbicides registered for cotton and other crops); paraquat dichloride; tiafenacil, a new herbicidal active ingredient; and multiple insecticides including acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.
To ensure these plant protection products, seeds and other supplies could be transported nationwide this past spring when COVID-19 surfaced, the NCC coordinated with agencies regulating transportation, particularly the trucking sector. That included urging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to expand/extend hours of service relief.
We also conveyed the importance of 1) reliable and cost-effective freight rail service and 2) free movement to international markets of critical food/agricultural products via shipping containers.
We will continue advocating for reasonable regulations that do not undermine our members’ competitiveness.
Gary Adams is president/CEO of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.