Friday, October 28, 2011

New TDA leadership learning pest control

Yesterday was the first Structural Pest Control Service Advisory Committee (SPCS-AC) meeting since the retirement of Jimmy Bush, and the new leadership showed up eager to listen and learn. Leading the meeting was David Kostroun, new Chief Administrator for Agriculture and Consumer Protection.  Also in attendance was Stephen Pahl (Administrator for Consumer Protection) and Leslie Smith (Director for Consumer Service Protection), who directly supervises Michael Kelly the Coordinator for SPCS.

David Kostroun is one of the good guys.  By that I mean that he's an entomologist and former Extension specialist (:-)).  He has has worked for TDA for 16 years, has little background in structural pest control, but is eager to be better acquainted with the industry.  Leslie Smith has 23 years in pesticide programs, but is also new to structural pest control, as is Stephen Pahl is a former TDA ag inspector. Over the next year or so it's important for all of us to get to know these new leaders, so if you run into any of them at industry functions I know they would like to meet you and learn about your interests and concerns.

Impact of Legislative Session on TDA

Last summer the agency that regulates pest control and oversees the state's agricultural programs was hit by the state legislature with a 40-45% budget cut.  This meant reducing TDA staff by 140 full-time equivalents (FTEs) and forcing the agency to rely even more on "cost recovery".  Fortunately the cuts did not affect inspector ranks, but it did require the agency to raise fees by 57%.  House bill 2742 also reinstated the agency's powers to regulate advertising and soliciting pest control business.

The budget cuts and layoffs spurred the agency to reorganize.  This fall the agency has gone from ten divisions to three: food and nutrition, Trade and Business Development, and Agriculture and Consumer Protection (home of the SPCS, our regulating agency). Jimmy Bush, former agency head who steered the SPCS for the past three years or so, retired at the end of August.  His successor, David Kostroun, has a big job in front of him as he tries to balance a smaller budget against the need to maintain public safety.  His mantra for the agency is "quality, consistency, and efficiency."

Clean Water Permit program for pest control

In earlier blog posts I wrote about the clean water permitting system slated for implementation this year. According to TCEQ staffer Joy Tegbe, the permitting system is scheduled to go into effect on November 2; although a recent article by the Delta Farm Press reports that a possible two-year moratorium is still being debated by Congress.  If the NPDES rules do go into effect, cities and agencies who meet the thresholds in the law will have 90 days to apply for permits to use pesticides that might be applied to, or drift into, waterways.  This will affect pesticide applications made for mosquito control, aquatic weed or animal control, area-wide pest control and forest canopy pest control.

Since my original post, several clarifications have been made about who is required to get a permit.  For one, the thresholds for groups requiring permits have been liberalized.  For example, a permit is only required for entities that apply pesticides for mosquito control, forest canopy pests or area-wide pest control to more than 6,400 acres of land.  A permit for pesticides to control of aquatic animal or plant pests will only be required when treating more than 100 acres of water or 200 miles of stream bank each year. Contrary to early reports, re-treatments of the same land or water are not counted toward the annual acreage count.  In other words, if you treat the same 640 acres ten times, you've still only treated 640 acres--not 6,400 acres as we were originally told.

Now that the cards are all on the table, I believe the new NPDES rules will not greatly affect us in the pest control industry, although some of you may be asked to help explain these rules to large customers, such as municipalities.  The requirement that will affect most people are those for Level II entities.  These are public or private entities that annually treat more than one acre and less than 6,400 areas of land with General or Restricted Use pesticides.  These folks will have to keep on hand a letter of self certification, stating their intention to comply with the state's general use permit.  Failure to have such a letter would put these folks out of compliance with the law.  Golf courses, cities, park systems, and school districts are likely Level II entities and will probably need letters.  Most homeowners and smaller scale pesticide users will be classified as Level III entities and will not self-certify, rather they will only be required to follow label directions and precautions.  More about self certification letters in another blog.

To read the whole permit:
WARNING: this permit is long and dense reading.  If you have questions, I suggest calling a real human such as Joy Tegbe or James Moore at 512-239-4671.

Need for New Members
The SPCS-AC was formed two legislative sessions ago to serve as a sounding board for TDA on structural pest control issues. The committee gets its mandate from Chapter 1951.101 of the Texas Occupations Code, and consists of nine members (two experts in structural pest control application, three public members, one member from an institution of higher education knowledgeable in pest control, one member recommended by the pest control industry, a consumer member, and a designee of the commissioner of state health services).

Almost all of the advisory committee terms have either expired or will expire in February, meaning that the SPCS is accepting applications for most seats on the committee.  If you are interested, call Michael Kelly of the SPCS for an application.  The consumer seat on the committee has never been filled, so if you are a consumer with interest in the pest control industry, this is your chance to get involved.

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