Defending Crop Protection
Despite her Iowa birth, Diane Allemang did not grow up on a farm, though living in the state means “you were never far from a farm.” It’s not surprising, then, Allemang, Global Director of the Global Portfolio Strategy and Director of North American Business Development for FMC Agricultural Solutions, has spent much of her professional career dealing with issues surrounding agriculture.
Allemang joined the company in April 2015 coming over with Cheminova when FMC acquired the Danish-based crop chemical company. At Cheminova, Allemang held the position of executive vice president.
In addition to her role at FMC, Allemang serves as chairman of CropLife America, the industry organization that “advocates for and promotes the responsible use of innovative, safe and environmentally sound crop protection products.”
Allemang had worked with CropLife America for years, serving on and chairing a number of committees and joining the executive board before ascending to the role of chair in September 2015.
“CropLife America works hard and successfully in a number of areas,” Allemang says of the Washington D.C.-based group. “We’ve focused in the last year or two on leading and bringing together different agricultural groups to work on, discuss, and unify around a variety of issues.
CropLife America seeks input from members of Congress and the administration, among others to work with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address some of the complex issues facing the crop protection industry.
A large amount of CropLife America’s attention is dedicated to EPA.
“Increasingly EPA is under pressure to make pesticide decisions ahead of the science,” Allemang says. “With stakeholders we’ve been working with the EPA to keep science in the forefront. EPA really is the gold standard for the regulation of pesticides around the world.”
As the science surrounding crop protection advances, the regulatory process becomes more time consuming and more complex. Combine that with EPA’s time constraints and the job the agency has to do becomes more challenging.
Despite the challenges CropLife America works with the agency to try to ensure the regulatory decisions EPA makes are risk-based and appropriate.
“It’s a regulation we welcome,” Allemang says. “It’s important that our products are regulated in a sound, scientific way. While we will always have issues that we disagree on, the regulation done by EPA at the federal level is good, is viable, and can adequately protect human health and the environment.”
As part of its mission, CropLife America looks to the future to help decide where the industry is headed. That includes laying the groundwork for the new occupant of the White House.
“No matter who wins, it will be a new administration,” Allemang says. “There will be a transition throughout the Federal government. We will work hard to make sure the voice of agriculture on specific issues is understood and well-represented in the new administration.”
One of the key issues CropLife America addresses is the EPA’s budget. Adequate funding for EPA is always a concern, she says. “It’s very important to us they be funded, to do a good job, to a scientific job. We will continue to do whatever might be needed to support that funding.”
Allemang’s tenure ends in a year or so when a new chair takes on the role. That doesn’t mean she plans on stepping away from the organization once her tenure is done. One constant that eases the transitions betwen new chairs (Bayer CropSciences’ Jim Blome is slated to replace Allemang) is the organization’s President and CEO, Jay Vroom.
“Jay has worked very hard,” Allemang says. “He’s organized the CEO Council that has brought together a lot of leaders of the grower organizations. Jay deserves a lot of credit for taking a lead.”
In addition to the regulatory issues that affect the country, CropLife America works with state and local officials when the need arises.
States in the Northeast, particularly, such as New York, Maine, and Maryland have had initiatives that could use input from CropLife America experts. Not every issue is directly focused on agriculture, Allemang says, but those local issues often have either an implied or direct impact on agriculture. “Those are areas where we’re working with local allies to develop talking points, legislation, and communications around how well our products are already regulated.”
CropLife America’s interests extend well beyond regulatory issues.
“The ag economy is in a down cycle; commodity prices are weak,” Allemang says. “In the U.S. farmer income is down. It’s all the more important that farmers have good tools, with good yield and good return on investment. Certainly crop protection products are a key part of those inputs.
“Some of the key issues that we’ve been working on the last several years include pollinators, endangered species, and there are a number of molecules going through reevaluation. Some of those issues become quite complex around drinking and groundwater models and drift.”
For any industry to succeed, it must look to the next generation of leaders. Agriculture with an aging population of growers is acutely aware of this particular issue.
“We have to reach out beyond farm kids, particularly in the research areas — precision ag, big data, analytics, animal science, plant science, DNA, and GM related,” Allemang says. “There are a host of modern technical/scientific areas that can appeal to more than just the traditional farm kids.”
The Consumer Angle
If dealing with regulatory agencies isn’t challenging enough, CropLife America is also explaining crop protection’s important role to consumers.
“It’s a challenging task, in this digital age, whatever the topic,” Allemang says. “The science and facts can be left behind. It’s the emotion that gets communicated.”
CropLife America works to counteract that sentiment by having conversations
with consumer groups, explaining the the rigorous testing in the regulatory process, and the safety and importance of crop protection products.
“As an association, we feel optimistic about the ability to educate but realistic about the size of the task.”
It’s not been since the 1980s that someone from FMC has served as chair of the organization. What’s surprising isn’t how long it’s been since another FMC employee held the position, but that Allemang is the first woman to do so.
“I’m honored to be a chair of CropLife America period,” Allemang says. “There are women engaged throughout the ag industry, throughout the crop protection industry. There are women on the board of directors; there are women on the CropLife America executive committee. It’s somewhat random chance that it ended up being me. There could have been others ahead of me and there will certainly be others that follow. It’s a reflection of American society; it’s a reflection of American agriculture.”
And like most effective leaders, Allemang likes to share the credit for the organization’s success.
“There are always people who stand behind each successful person,” she says. “This is no different.”
Contact Dan at [email protected]