Monday, February 27, 2017

IPM Is About to Become More Vital than Ever

by Steve Elliott and Amanda Crump

Over the past year or so, the national IPM community has been coalescing around the idea of seeking $50 million in additional funding for integrated pest management in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The one problem with that big ask is that we didn’t really have a strong answer for why IPM needs the extra money now. “Making up for past cuts,” "rising costs" and “to meet unmet needs” – while true – aren’t winning arguments.

However, there is a clear and compelling need for expanded IPM efforts and funding.

On January 30, President Trump signed an executive order on reducing regulation and controlling regulatory costs. The order instructs federal agencies to identify two existing regulations to repeal for every new regulation proposed, and to offset costs of new regulations by reducing the costs to comply with existing regulations. The United States has entered a new era of reduced federal regulation.

It’s impossible to know exactly what shape this regulatory reform will ultimately take, or what rules the federal government, pesticide manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and pest managers in schools, housing and other systems will be working under.

Whatever those rules will be, we are convinced that integrated pest management will be more important than ever for America’s pest managers.

The IPM community has a critical role to play in the months and years ahead. Here’s why:

Many people believe that government regulations – especially federal regulations – aren’t necessary for people to act responsibly, and that when regulation is necessary it should be enacted at the state or local level.

The growers and pest managers we’ve met around the West provide good evidence for the argument. The vast majority of growers recognize their farms are part of a larger environmental system and want to be good stewards of the land and good neighbors. The vast majority of schools want to manage pests effectively and protect their students from both pests and pesticide risks.

IPM gives them the knowledge and tools to do that. It gives them a process and a structure for thinking through pest-management decisions.

With regulation, decisions are easy. If it’s banned, you don’t use it. If it’s restricted, you use it within whatever parameters are allowed. Regulation can become a substitute for informed decision-making, a crutch pest managers can rely on. With strong regulations in place, you can honestly say that you acted responsibly because you followed the label.

But if regulations are significantly dialed back as the executive order calls for, it will fall to America’s farmers and pest managers to make responsible pest-management decisions on their own. They will no longer be able to assume that what’s legal and what’s responsible are the same thing.

IPM gives people the framework to make informed decisions, guiding them through a thoughtful approach that manages pests and risks. IPM gives growers and natural resource managers a way to know – and to show – they continue to be good stewards of the land and good neighbors. IPM gives community pest-management specialists confidence that they’ve made the best decision possible as they control pests in habitats that are difficult to manage.   

There is danger for growers, the agriculture industry and others in deregulation. If individuals and industries don’t act responsibly, they will be blamed by the public. If pesticide use goes up significantly, or pesticide residue levels on produce rise suddenly, growers will be held responsible. If rivers and wells that had tested clean test dirty or there’s other significant negative environmental impacts, the ag industry will suffer. Brands could face boycotts and public distrust of commercial agriculture and the crop-protection industry could rise to economically critical levels.

No one wants that.

If regulations aren’t available to serve as a de facto decision-making tool for pest managers, we must give them another tool or we’re setting them up to fail. Integrated pest management is that tool. It’s the way growers and other pest managers can protect themselves, protect America’s environment and protect the reduced regulatory concept. It’s the way that we can continue to keep the West, and America, a healthy and economically sustainable place to live and work.

Our jobs, as IPM researchers and educators and practitioners, just got a lot more vital.

And that means that we have to find and devote resources to developing IPM tools that work on a regional level. It means that we have to work together to change the conversation – to stop working within the silos of our disciplines and collaboratively develop approaches that make sense for pest managers. It means that we have to continue to support growers, natural resource managers and community pest managers with effective and creative solutions to their problems.

It’s going to take all of us, and it’s going to take resources. Why does IPM need an additional $50 million from American taxpayers? Because America is going to need IPM now more than ever.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Top Takeaways from the National IPM Coordinating Committee Presentations

Here, in no particular order, are some of the top takeaways from the speakers or discussions at the National IPM Coordinating Committee meeting in October in Washington, D.C.

  • Public health, sustainable agriculture and invasive species are challenges worldwide, and IPM is critical to addressing all of them.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is trying to slow the development of resistance by including more resistance-management information on pesticide labels, and issuing non-binding guidance about product use and training to increase resistance management. 
  • To expand adoption of IPM, it’s necessary to show obvious economic benefits.
  • The appeal and understanding of IPM needs to extend beyond insects.
  • The most effective way to advocate – for IPM or anything - is with one voice.
  • IPM needs a unified message and meaningful common measures to document its impact.
  • In developing a unified voice or vision, focus on issues where people already broadly agree instead of the areas where they disagree.
  • It’s easier to advocate for fewer, larger budget lines that collapse several programs into a single line-item, but then agency implementation of those programs becomes critical.
  • There is no new money on Capitol Hill.

Have Ideas About a New IPM? Here's Your Chance to Share Them

What's next for IPM? What should it look like in the future? How should it be funded? Whom should it serve? If you had a blank slate, how would you create a new IPM to best benefit the people, environment and economy of the United States? 

That's what the National IPM Coordinating Committee spent a good portion of its two-day meeting in October discussing. And you can contribute to the conversation.

In workshops, meeting participants answered questions the Committee will use to draft a white paper proposing a future direction for IPM. Here are the questions participants answered:
  1. What are the BIG ideas for a NEW IPM?
  2. You have a clean white board with the full authority and financial support to create a NEW IPM. What are three key concepts to evolve the current paradigm?
  3. Local, state and regional IPM needs exist. How would you go about identifying and linking these needs to national priorities?
  4. How would you programmatically address underserved populations or program areas?
  5. How would you create the next generation of IPM professionals?
  6. Consider the food-production needs to feed the world population by 2050. How can land grant universities best support the IPM needs of the global community?
There were also workshop questions about communication and accountability:
  1. How should local, state, regional and national needs assessments be determined?
  2. What is the best way to coordinate IPM on a national basis?
  3. What is the system infrastructure needed to best develop and deliver IPM?
  4. How can we better capture and package IPM stories?
  5. How should state impacts be communicated at the national level?
  6. Excluding time and funding, what are the barriers to effective communication and accountability?
To contribute to the conversation, send your answers or ideas to the new Coordinating Committee chair, Washington State University’s Doug Walsh.

From Director Amanda Crump: IPM is All About Change

Let’s talk about change.

They say people hate change. And while change can be scary and stressful, it can also be transformative and even adventurous.

Integrated pest management is all about change. IPM is is a system of change – where you make the best decision you can, evaluate that decision and then make more changes. That’s what makes IPM such a fun system to work with: it’s a tool that can be applied in different ways and in different settings and while the principles remain constant, the practice of IPM doesn’t.

At the National IPM Coordinating Committee meeting, we wondered as a group if IPM needed to change. We’ve recapped the discussion in this newsletter but a couple of points have stayed with me.

One person wondered if we could frame IPM as an approach within other contexts, a framework incorporated into other pest management contexts and systems. That didn’t seem like a change to me until she suggested that to fit in some systems, we might have to give up the term IPM. That’s a big change and that’s one that initially made me uncomfortable. Are we ready, as a community, to give up this name that we worked so long and hard to define?

But would we actually be giving up anything if our ultimate vision was still fulfilled? If the principles of integrated pest management are applied across systems and the result is increased income, a more resilient environment and a healthier population, have we lost anything?

I certainly think it’s worth having the discussion. You can contribute to the National IPM Coordinating Committee white paper, but you can also contribute by having these conversations within your networks in and out of the IPM community. What would it take to see IPM used in every school, national park, forest, house and farm in the West?  

The National IPM Coordinating Committee isn’t the only place where this discussion is being held. We are holding it at the Center, too.

As I’ve been learning about the Center, I’ve asked our team to be introspective. As a result, we have refined our mission and vision and developed a draft of how we will evaluate ourselves and hold ourselves accountable to the people of the West.

Our new mission statement outlines why we exist:

We serve the people, environment and economy of the West by supporting the development and adoption of integrated pest management to reduce the risks of pests and of pest-management practices.

And we’ve developed a new vision that outlines what we would like to see as a result of our efforts:

A healthier West with fewer pests.

We’ve developed a theory of change around these revised goals. This theory of change summarizes our work at a strategic level. It’s meant to motivate us and locate us in the greater IPM community. It begins with our ultimate goal.

A healthy West is one where human health is improved or protected, the environment, communities and farms become more resilient and the economy is enriched.

To us, the path to a healthier West is through widespread IPM adoption. Along with others, the Western IPM Center aims to increase IPM adoption. With our resources and expertise, the Center’s niche is building regional approaches to integrated pest management. State-level IPM researchers, extension educators, growers, agencies and others develop, test and refine IPM methodologies that work on local scales. We promote and catalyze the expansion of these methodologies beyond state and regional borders. We also support our region by promoting its needs at a national level.

The Western IPM Center will use this theory of change to plan and evaluate our program. This theory of change is flexible and responsive to change. And it might be modified from time to time because, as we all know, things change.

I look forward to your thoughts on reframing integrated pest management, our vision and mission statements, and our theory of change. Together, as a community, we can change the way people manage pests. We can integrate IPM principles into other systems. And we can work together for a healthier West with fewer pests. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pest Management Strategic Plans: Regulators Like Them, and Two Efforts to Improve Them

One of the most effective tools to influence federal regulatory decisions about pesticides is an up-to-date Pest Management Strategic Plan.

That was the message from representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Pest Management Policy – the federal agencies that most use PMSPs – during a recent meeting of the four Regional IPM Centers in Washington, D.C.

The session was held to ask the agencies how they used the documents, and update them on two initiatives to improve PMSPs. And the clear message from the regulators was that there are few pieces of information more valuable to them as they consider new restrictions than a pest management strategic plan.

PMSPs are developed by groups representing growers, commodity associations, researchers, crop consultants and others to document current pest-management issues and practices in a particular crop and set priorities for research, regulation and education. The Western IPM Center funds the creation of PMSPs, and our current request for applications contains a category specifically for developing or updating PMSPs and crop profiles. (Applications are due December 9; download the RFA.)

The information in PMSPs most valuable to regulators show the actual amounts of a pesticide used, and when and how it’s used. Here’s why:
  •  Without actual usage information, the agencies’ risk models assume the product is used at its maximum allowed level, which isn’t always the case. 
  • Knowing how and when a product is used and applied on a particular crop helps the agencies craft restrictions – or avoid restrictions – that preserve critical uses of the pesticide while mitigating unacceptable risks. For example, if a product is not applied while a crop is blooming, EPA doesn’t need to craft restrictions to protect pollinators. But without that actual usage information, the agency would likely propose pollinator-protection restrictions, simply assuming they were needed.
The agencies offered another very valuable piece of advice: If there’s a chemical coming up for registration review that’s critical to a crop, commodity or pest-management program, getting a PMSP done ahead of time is a very good idea. EPA’s registration schedule can be found here

Improving the PMSP Process
There are two initiatives under way to improve the process of creating, updating and using PMSPs. The first is an ongoing effort of the Regional IPM Centers, led by the Southern IPM Center, to build a database of all the elements contained in PMSPs.

The database is designed to make PMSPs easier to create, by importing pest, pesticide and other information from existing databases, and easier to update by allowing changes to be noted as they occur. If a new pest emerges, for instance, the PMSP can document that concern quickly, and newer and older versions can be compared easily, showing IPM improvements in a crop’s management as well as challenges. The Western IPM Center’s recent comparison of hops PMSPs, for example, showed significant improvements in some IPM practices in that crop.

The other new PMSP development is an effort led by Katie Murray at the Integrated Plant Protection Center at Oregon State University to develop and pilot an Integrated Pest Management Strategic Plan. These IPMSPs, as they’re known, would better incorporate IPM elements in the PMSP process, and use the survey methods developed in the Crop Pest-Loss and Impact Assessment Signature Program to enhance the reports. 

Recently funded, Murray’s group will develop IPMSPs for four Pacific Northwest crops, beginning with onions, and followed by cranberries, hazelnuts and cherries.

See or search completed PMSPs here