Challenges and Opportunities in 2021

2020 has drawn to a close and oh, what a year it has been. A year ago, the biggest story was the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. No one could have foreseen the impact COVID would have on our day-to-day lives, nor how much of this year’s legislative dickering would be over massive COVID packages and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Our industry was declared an essential service as states and localities locked down under the onslaught of COVID-19. We have continued to protect the food, health and property of Americans, and have continued to educate policymakers on the essential nature of the work we perform, all the more important during a pandemic. More attention than ever is being paid to things like safeguarding the food supply and ensuring those in hospitals and other high risk populations remain as safe and healthy as possible, and our industry had played a key role in all of this. We conducted a massive campaign to ensure we were listed as an essential service in every state and by the federal government; we worked with policymakers from county, to state, to the federal level on ensuring we can continue our vital work as many businesses were forced to shut down.

With a new administration set to take office in January, many people across the country are uncertain of the impacts a Biden presidency will bring. Add in a deeply divided Congress and there are concerns about what exactly can get done next year. Luckily, NPMA has just completed a public policy strategic plan that is not dependent on any party in power, but instead focused on bipartisan efforts to protect public health.

A new administration means new political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Small Business Administration (SBA), Department of Agriculture and many other agencies that can have an impact on our industry. NPMA has always prided itself on ensuring we maintain long term relationships with key career staff, so that no matter which party is in power, we can continue to help EPA understand how regulations play out on the ground. With any new administration, education and outreach to new appointees becomes top priority in the first few months, and NPMA will continue to help regulatory staff understand the on-the-ground impacts of any policy decisions. Our work is not limited to the federal level either—NPMA’s Public Policy Strategic Plan emphasizes strengthening connections with state regulatory agencies and staff. Many state associations and individual companies already have relationships with key state regulatory staff, but our industry is committed to making that connection building uniform across the country.

Nationwide, we have always worked to ensure we have strong connections in Congress and in state legislatures. Our industry has had to push back many ill-informed pieces at legislation but has also had the chance to support and champion key public health bills as well. We will continue building on this by reaching even more across the aisle and wherever possible, engaging bipartisan support. Our strategic plan calls for us to rethink how we reach policymakers, and we will be rolling out some new advocacy tools such as videos and a central repository of information, available to all members. We want to reach policymakers where they are and will engage more heavily in their districts. We will also be prioritizing now more than ever areas of common cause rather than disagreements. With increasingly divided legislatures in the states and with a very partisan Congress, it’s essential we find areas of collaboration even with policymakers who may hold vastly different opinions than we do. Above all, our industry continues to strive for legislative priorities like safeguarding preemption and ensuring that product decisions are scientific, rather than political.

As our industry looks ahead to the next Congress, we have many challenges to face. At the time of writing, the Senate majority is undecided as both Georgia Senate seats will head into a run-off. With the House in Democratic hands (albeit with a smaller majority) and with President Biden, it will be more important than ever to ensure our work is bipartisan. No matter what the makeup of the Senate ultimately looks like, our industry is prepared to emphasize our public health credentials.

COVID has certainly thrown a wrench in many plans this year, but NPMA is thinking creatively about how best to reach policymakers from a distance. While federal and state Legislative days continue to be important, we will be placing more emphasis on in-district outreach for policymakers. This is not just a reaction to COVID, which has made group gatherings impossible, but is also part of a long-term strategy to build stronger relationships with policymakers across the political spectrum and reach them at home, not just in their offices.

We are also committed to expanding our list of allies and partners. We will continue to work with traditional groups and industries, but also want to reach out to industries like hospitality, food safety and others. A pest-free life is something that impacts many industries, and we want to ensure they are engaged on our policy issues whenever possible. We already partner with many agriculture groups at the state and local level and want to build as broad a coalition as possible as we head into a very contentious political year.

Our industry remains committed to the protection of America’s food, health and property and we stand united on our policy objectives no matter which party controls the White House, the governor’s mansion or the legislature. 2021 will not be easy, but our industry always rises to the challenge.