The NCC closely monitored activities surrounding the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program that controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States.
The NCC issued an Action Alert to its directors, national interest organizations, producer and ginner interest organizations and environmental task force – encouraging them to contact Cotton Belt Representatives and urge them to co-sponsor or support H.R. 872, the "Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011. That legislation reversed a 2009 decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in National Cotton Council v. EPA. That court decision vacated a 2006 EPA rule and long-standing interpretation that the application of a pesticide for its intended purpose and in compliance with the requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) -- does not also require a separate permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Following its House passage, NCC President/CEO Mark Lange conveyed sincere appreciation for industry leadership's concerted efforts to secure co-sponsors and support. He emphasized in that Action Alert that NCC leadership would need to mount a similar effort to ensure Senate passage of the legislation. The NCC and other commodity organizations also expressed concern over draft guidance released by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers that sought to expand the scope of the CWA in a way that could lead to additional permitting requirements and make farmers more vulnerable to citizen action lawsuits.
Cannon Michael, president of the California Cotton Growers Association and representing the NCC, spoke about the pesticide permitting issue at a meeting in which Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had major commodity groups gather to discuss environmental regulatory issues. Michael stressed to Jackson that the new permits would be a prime example of duplicative regulation that provides no additional environmental protection.
Following the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee's passage of H.R. 872, the NCC issued a statement urging swift Senate passage – but the bill stalled due to Senator Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) push for a broad study of pesticide impacts on waters. EPA and states with delegated authority began enforcement of the permits on January 2, 2012.
NCC Director Cannon Michael, a California producer who also serves as Cotton Foundation president, addressed the NPDES water pollution permitting issue before Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
On another key environmental issue, the NCC joined other agriculture groups in filing a motion to intervene in federal court in a lawsuit that raised the possibility of needless product restrictions or bans through a wide swath of U.S. agriculture. Center for Biological Diversity v. Environmental Protection Agency, a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleged that EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by allowing the use of one or more of 381 chemicals without conducting consultations with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) regarding potential impacts on 214 listed species. Under the ESA, the EPA is required to consult with one of the Services, depending on the species in question, when it determines that a pesticide may affect a listed species or its critical habitat.
Following USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) decision to deregulate Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA), the NCC and other agricultural groups objected to the unprecedented option of partial deregulation on the grounds that it would open the established risk-based assessments to marketing and other considerations and would set the stage for future mandated conditions on biotech crops including cotton.
The NCC posted on its website both a Dear Colleague letter and a Members letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding dust that was circulated to other House Members by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN). The letters conveyed Congressional opposition to EPA's proposal to regulate coarse particulate matter at lower levels stating, "Given the difficulty and expensive process of mitigating dust in most settings, the revised standards could have a devastating impact on rural communities and greatly reduce our nation's food security." Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA is required to review its National Ambient Air Quality Standards every five years. Particulate matter is one of six criteria pollutants under the CAA subject to this periodic review.
Late in the year, the NCC, along with other agricultural interests, signed a letter sent to House and Senate leadership and to relevant committee leaders, in support of the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011 (H.R. 1633, S. 1528). These bills would prohibit the EPA Administrator from proposing, finalizing, implementing or enforcing any regulation that would revise the national primary ambient air quality standard or the national secondary ambient air quality standard applicable to particulate matter (PM) with a diameter greater than 2.5 micrometers under the CAA for one year.
Details concerning the EPA's Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule were summarized by the NCC's Technical Services staff and made available on the NCC's website. A link also was included to SPCC for Agriculture – a page dedicated to helping farms and gins prevent oil spills as well as control a spill should one occur. The EPA later extended the date by which owners or operators of a farm must prepare or amend and implement an SPCC plan from November 10, 2011 to May 10, 2013.
The NCC worked with several agricultural organizations on getting a one-month extension – and later seeking an additional 60-day extension – on the comment period after the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Child Labor Regulations. The organizations sought additional time for a thorough analysis of the rule's potential impacts after identifying areas of concern ranging from the implications of multiple family members working for a family farm organized as a LLC to additional restrictions placed on young people working with and around agricultural equipment and the future of agricultural education opportunities for youths and teens.
Following Bayer CropScience's announcement of Temik® discontinuation and short supply, the NCC provided an explanation of alternatives to Temik® application for the 2011 growing season. That information along with other strategies for controlling nematodes and early season pests were made available on the NCC's website.
NCC submitted comments supporting a registration request from Ag Logic LLC for a generic aldicarb product, MEYMIK 15G that included use on cotton. The NCC comments stressed the importance of this product for producers and referred to research presented at the 2011 Beltwide Cotton Conferences that evaluated the effects on cotton yields in the product's absence.NCC staff also participated in conference calls with EPA and the registrant of Cotoran® herbicide, Makhteshim Agan of North America, urging EPA to refrain from making label changes to that product without data substantiating the need for the change.
The NCC worked to secure EPA approval of a supplemental label for addressing the Boll Weevil Eradication Program’s needs through 2011.
The NCC also worked closely with Malathion's registrant to secure EPA approval of a supplemental label for addressing the Boll Weevil Eradication Program's needs through 2011. The NCC's Boll Weevil Action Committee (BWAC) passed a motion that created an International Technical Advisory Committee comprised of U.S. and Mexican representatives to provide zone operation recommendations to the BWAC, which forwards approved recommendations to USDA's APHIS and urges coordinated eradication efforts on both sides of the border.
The NCC's Technical and Communications staff developed on-line streaming videos that describe how federal appropriation support combined with producer support is achieving eradication of boll weevil and pink bollworm.
Dr. Don Parker, the NCC's manager of Integrated Pest Management, began serving on EPA's new "pollinator work group" (PWG) that will focus on issues of pollinator protection, for both honey bees and native pollinating bees. The 44-member PWG represents a broad interest group, including state and federal government representatives, bee keepers, conservation groups, applicators, grower groups, cooperative extension, nongovernmental groups and agricultural industry.
The 2011 crop year bale packaging specifications adopted by the NCC Joint Cotton Industry Bale Packaging Committee were approved by USDA for Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) loan program purposes.
New for 2011 was a marking requirement for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic strapping strap and an adjustment in the tare weights table for six-wire ties when combined with polyethylene (PE) film bagging. Beginning with the 2011 crop, the strap manufacturer's name or trademark had to be printed or embossed on every 36 inches of strapping. The new marking requirement for PET strapping matched the existing requirement for approved steel strap. Use of only properly marked PET strap was required for 2011 and continued use of non-marked PET strap is disallowed once existing stocks are depleted.
The other change, the adjustment in the tare weights table, also was implemented with the beginning of the 2011 ginning season. The CCC used the 2010 tare weights table for calculating cotton loans until May 31, 2011, the deadline for 2010–11 crop year loans. After that date, USDA was to update its cotton loan software to accommodate the one pound tare weight adjustment. Prior to the 2011 harvesting and ginning season, the NCC encouraged ginners and warehousers to make sure the software they use to assign bale tare weights was up to date.
USDA approved specifications adopted by the Joint Industry Bale Packaging Committee, including official tare weights for various combinations of approved wrapping materials.
The NCC's Performance and Standards Task Force discussed concepts to operationalize the intent of NCC resolutions dealing with appropriate rewards for exceptional warehouse service and penalties for nonperformance. They formed 12 proposals, which they discussed prior to consideration by the NCC Board.
The NCC stated in comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that that onerous regulations governing the transport of agricultural products were not needed and that agriculture has worked with individual states to develop common sense enforcement practices. In a news release, the agency said it had no intention to propose new regulations governing the transport of agricultural products.
The NCC's Technical and Communications staff continued to work with land grant university weed scientists and the Weed Science Society of America to develop educational material beneficial to those producers faced with weed resistance. The NCC's latest weed resistance videos easily can be accessed by clicking on the weed resistance management icon on the NCC's home page, www.cotton.org.
The new video additions include:"Biology and Management of Pigweed" by Dr. Bob Nichols, Cotton Incorporated; "Field Day" with Dr. Stanley Culpepper, U. of Georgia; "Horseweed: Control This Weed Early" by Dr. Ken Smith, U. of Arkansas; "A Field Day" with Dr. Larry Steckel, University of Tennessee; and "Weed Resistance Management" by Dr. Jason Norsworthy, and "Weed Management in Corn" by Dr. Ken Smith, both at the University of Arkansas. The videos were stored on DVDs and distributed to producers and educators as a continuing effort by the NCC to provide its membership with the best information available.
The NCC supported the National Academies' National Research Council with its hosting of a meeting titled "National Summit on Strategies to Manage Herbicide Resistant Weeds."Dr. Don Parker, the NCC's manager of Integrated Pest Management, made a presentation to the summit's steering committee urging its members to remain focused on the science of the issue and the need for the education of that science without regulatory mandates.
The NCC signaled its support for legislation that would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the deductibility of charitable contributions to agricultural research organizations. A letter to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) from NCC Senior Vice President John Maguire noted that the legislative language in The Charitable Agricultural Research Act is consistent with NCC's long standing position – and supported by a NCC resolution – of ensuring adequate cotton research funding levels. It said the NCC believes that U.S. agricultural research, extension and education are significantly under-funded at both the federal and state levels.
On other technical issues:
NCC Director Don Cameron, second from right, hosted EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson who visited his farm as part of her California tour to observe ways producers are helping to improve air quality and other environment facets.
- Don Cameron, a NCC and American Cotton Producers director, hosted EPA Administrator Jackson during her visit to California. During her stop at the Terranova Ranch in Helm, Cameron shared with Jackson equipment changes he had made to improve air quality and discussed various water conservation measures he employs, including a groundwater recharge project involving the use of floodwater when available and his use of drip irrigation on the majority of his crops.
- The Council and Cotton Council International prepared a statement for use by Turkish importers and made a presentation before Turkish officials in response to that country's biosafety law regulating imports of genetically modified organisms..
- USDA's Agricultural Air Quality Task Force, which advises the Secretary of Agriculture on agricultural air quality issues, re-appointed: Dr. Bryan Shaw, TX; Kevin Rogers, AZ; Robert Avant, TX; and Dr. Bill Norman, NCC vice president, Technical Services, TN. New appointments include: Annette Sharp, LA; and Dr. Brock Faulkner, TX.
- The NCC cooperated with the National Cotton Ginners Association on the three 2011 Ginner Schools:Southwest Ginners School in Lubbock, TX; Western Ginners School in Las Cruces, NM; and the Stoneville Ginners School, Stoneville, MS.
- The NCC joined members of the Ag Biotech Planning Committee (ABPC) in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack expressing concern about the directions concerning co-existence and compensation given to the recently reconstituted Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). They commented on the specific charge given to the committee—to recommend an appropriate compensation mechanism, if any, to address economic loss to growers from unintended presence of biotech materials—and offered suggestions on how the work of AC21, and the broader debate over the coexistence of commercialized biotech and non-biotech agricultural products, can remain constructive.