NAAA and NAAREF’s Board and Committee members convocated in Palm Springs, California, October 4-6, 2018 to conduct the business of the association in preserving and strengthening the U.S. aerial application industry. Prior to the meeting the PAASS Presenters prepared for the 21st season of the program which began last week in Michigan (more on the PAASS program’s 21st season later in the article). Palm Springs was chosen as the site of the meeting to give board members a chance to visit and promote back home the site of the 2021 NAAA AgAviation Expo (Convention) which will celebrate the 100th year of agricultural aviation.
As tradition has it, the general session of the meeting on Friday was highlighted by the executive director’s report delivered by Andrew Moore on the state of the association and industry. Moore reported 2018 farm income was projected to be markedly down, nearly half way so from its high in 2013. Tariffs levied by China on U.S. agricultural commodities are resulting in a drop in their prices. Moore explained that ag aviators had a better run of things compared to farmers in 2018 per an NAAA industry survey recently conducted. It showed hours flown per aircraft decreasing from 314.7 hours in 2017 to 278.2 hours in 2018. However, 60% of operators treated greater, somewhat greater or the same number of acres in 2018 vs. 2017. Fifty percent of operators polled expressed concern about next season primarily due to agricultural trade uncertainties.
Moore went on to deliver a review of key public policies affecting the industry mentioning that even though difficult court decisions had been handed down on the insecticide chlorpyrifos and the herbicide glyphosate, NAAA had worked with EPA to reregister nearly 17 crop protection products for aerial use that came up for reregistration per the FIFRA 15-year review process over the past eight months. NAAA is also working on seeking regulatory relief in the Farm bill which is currently stuck in conference committee and likely won’t be enacted until after the November elections. Exemption from the burdensome, unnecessary, duplicative and legally-jeopardizing NPDES-PGP along with measures preventing the banning of pesticides via local ballot measures instead of by a state/federal regulatory agency with pesticide regulatory authority are the regulatory relief measures being sought by NAAA in the Farm bill. Moore also discussed passage of the FAA Reauthorization which includes helpful items to the industry such as no user fees and removes the FAA exemption from regulating remote, recreational aircraft; unfortunately, the bill waters down tower marking provisions NAAA was successful in obtaining in 2016 by allowing non-meteorological evaluations towers (METs) to either mark or log into a database, towers between 50-200 feet. METs would still be required to do both.
Moore then switched gears to communications and public relations successes NAAA has had over the year. Some required NAAA playing defense in countering claims made in ag trade publications by ground rig and drone manufacturers stating that their equipment was more efficacious in making applications than ag aircraft. NAAA took such claims to task and its rebuttal, chockful of legitimate field test data indicating the opposite was true, was published in both Delta Farm Press and Farm Journal magazines. Also, Farm Journal, with its 345,000 farmer-subscribers throughout the nation also published NAAA’s “Aerial Application: Above All Other Forms of Crop Care” ads pointing out that aerial application is by far the fastest, most versatile and economical way to aid farmers in producing greater crop yields; the ads also directed readers to NAAA’s website and search function that can find an aerial applicator near them. Hits to that site rose markedly when the ads were run in Farm Journal’s Agweb eNewsletter. Moore also discussed the industry’s marked growth in followers on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and headway that has been made by NAAA in exhibiting ag aviation as a career path at EAA’s Oshkosh, Wisconsin AirVenture show. In three years NAAA has established more than 300 ag pilot leads. Moore also discussed plans that are being developed to use 2021’s 100th anniversary of the first aerial application made by motorized aircraft as a massive public relations event to promote the importance of the industry to agriculture, forestry and public health to the public and mass traditional media. NAAA is also working on a 100th anniversary book.
Moore then discussed education and safety efforts, specifically the content of the 21st season of the PAASS program that will hit state and regional ag aviation association conventions this upcoming fall and winter for ag pilots to augment their professionalism, safety and earn continuing education units to renew their commercial aerial application pesticide licenses. The environmental professionalism module will focus on making effective dry applications and the aviation safety portions of the curriculum will focus on controllability of an aircraft in the event of something going wrong. Moore also mentioned that there had been 47 accidents year-to-date, a record low so far, but unfortunately seven fatal accidents. With that said, since the PAASS program’s inception there continues to be a steady drop in accidents per 100,000 hours flown and a decline in drift incidents.
Moore also plugged the upcoming NAAA convention in Reno, December 3-6 and spoke of a major change in the city since multiple high-tech companies like Tesla, Apple and Amazon have established operations there that have resulted in a growth in trendy restaurants, breweries and other great tourist and entertainment fare. He also touched on the substantive educational content scheduled at the AgAviation Expo on how to more effectively communicate to our communities and the public the importance of modern agricultural production and aerial application’s role in our safe, affordable and abundant food supply. Moore also stated that 145 exhibitors and ten aircraft were expected to showcase their cutting edge ag aviation parts and services on the exhibit floor. He also mentioned next year’s convention will be in Orlando before Thanksgiving.
Moore stated that membership is up to 1,936 (671 operators and 569 pilots) this year from a total of 1,821 which was 2017’s total, but said that still falls far short of the 1,350 total operators and 1,430 pilots in the U.S. He also mentioned that one of the tangible items NAAA hopes to provide members this year is the industry survey conducted before this season covering comprehensive profile features of the agricultural aviation industry.
Moore touched on financial matters next stating that NAAA had a deficit of ($28,148) in fiscal year 2017-18 and NAAREF had a deficit of ($64,139). This is due to having two directors on staff in the education and safety department as Ken Degg prepares to retire at year’s end. Moore did draw attention to the fact that NAAA spends $1,399 per member while it only generates 38% of those costs from membership dues.
In closing, Moore did discuss challenges facing the industry including the recent legal decisions against glyphosate and chlorpyrifos and how that might cost manufacturers more to (re)register crops. He also discussed how the trade war with China could continue to effect ag commodity prices negatively and how the growing federal debt could result in higher taxes, user fees and reduced agricultural research. But he listed a number of factors that would be positive for ag production and prices to conclude his presentation including U.N. statistics showing the population growing from 7.6 billion now to 9.7 billion in 2050 with much of that being middle class growth. Moore also referenced a study by Gro Intelligence, a global ag think tank, using population and crop production data analysis that shows the planet faces a 214 trillion calorie shortage by 2027. He also mentioned a recent article in Science magazine indicating that climate warming will decrease crop yields by 10-25% for every 2°F increase in temperature due to a more hospitable pest environment (NOAA estimates average temperatures could be between 2° F – 9.7° F warmer by 2100. Lastly, Moore referenced a CropLife magazine survey of U.S. retailers, and crop consultants showing marked positive results of precision ag decreasing input costs and increasing crop yields and how ag aviators could diversity their business by getting into this market.
Highlights from the business reported on and conducted by the NAAA/NAAREF Committees and Board are as follows:
Convention and Allied Committees: There was excitement reporting that 96% of the room block is full at the Atlantis–the headquarters hotel in Reno. This is significant this early which is an indication of a heavily attended show. Another exciting aspect of the board meeting is that staff provided a demo on the Text2Bid system that will be used during this year’s Silent Auction. The system allows people to use their smart phones to make bids for items. They can be on the other side of the trade show floor, the other side of Reno or the other side of the country to make bids.
Awards Committee: The following people will be honored with awards at the Excellence in Ag Aviation Banquet on Thursday, Dec. 6 in Reno at the Atlantis:
-Agrinaut Award – Peter Jones, Air Repair
-John Robert Horne Memorial Award – Mike Rutledge
-Larsen-Miller Community Service Award – Leif Isaacson, Desert Air Ag
-Outstanding Service Award – Dennie Stokes, Air Aids Inc./Stokes Flying Service
-Related Industry Award – JT Helms, Old Republic Aerospace
-William O. Marsh Safety Award – Boyd Morgan, Quality Spraying Service
-Allied Industry Award – Bill Everett with Pickett Equipment Co., Inc.
-Evans-Christopher Operations S.A.F.E. Award – Phil Jank, USDA-ARS Aerial Application Technology Research Unit
-Opal & Bill Binnion Memorial Award – Erin Morse, GEM Air
Budget & Finance Committee: The Committee recommended, and Board approved, an increase in the association’s budget by $50,000 for the initial expenditures on a 100th anniversary public relations campaign and book to positively promote and obtain significant media attention of ag aviation’s first century.
Governing Documents Committee: The committee developed changes to the By-laws that were approved by the Board that would include Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT), aerial foresters and aerial public health applicators in the operator and pilot membership categories. In addition, an ad hoc committee was established to continue discussions on establishing an aerial imaging membership category.
Government Relations Committee: The Committee directed the association to develop a fact sheet/educational document that shows a roadmap of how states can work with their USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services’ state agronomist to ensure aerial cover crop seeding is understood and an accepted conservation practice in their own state. Staff also gave a report about a recent conversation that it had with the largest drone manufacturer in the world stating they would like to work with NAAA in promoting ADS-B-In be added to all drones that they manufacture and to become an industry requirement.
Insurance Committee: The Committee discussed a recent Department of Labor authorization approved by Congress allowing for the expansion of association health policies that in the future may allow for the establishment of a national health care plan for the industry. There is still a lot of unknown information regarding this and the committee will continue to research this subject.
Long Range Planning Committee: Concerned about a shrinking industry, the committee discussed ideas to transfuse new blood into the industry. As such, NAAA will look towards offering a complimentary membership for youth, such as FFA members or other groups.
Membership Committee: It was also determined, in order to appease a state executive director, that NAAA ask state/regional association heads their willingness to follow a hard membership deadline of Dec. 31 each year to coincide with NAAA’s membership deadline and to inquire whether or not NAAA should exclude the requirement that operator and pilot members be a member of a state and regional association in order to be a member of NAAA. NAAA will be sending a letter to state and regional association board members and executive staff to glean their opinion on these matters. The NAAA Board also approved a Committee motion to grant long-term, former board member and officer Tom Harkin, formerly from DuPont, as an honorary NAAA member.
Museum Committee: The Committee announced terrific news that Thrush has donated three recurrent simulator courses to the NAA Museum and that they will be auctioned off at various conventions or online. It was also reported that the museum renovation is under way after years of fundraising; however, they continue to need funds.
Nominating Committee: The Committee nominated the following officers for 2019 that will be voted on at the December 2, 2018 board meeting in Reno, Nevada.
President – Perry Hofer, SD
Vice President – Darrin Pluhar, MT
Secretary – Jane Pitlick, SD
Treasurer – Bradley Reed, LA
Also, NAAREF will bring forward the nomination for Rick Boardman and Rick Turner to be re-elected for a second three-year term and Dwayne O’Brien for his first three-year term on the NAAREF Board. Mark Hartz has termed out of NAAREF and he was sincerely thanked for his service.
Research & Technology Committee: Updates on Air Tractor, Aviation Specialties Unlimited, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Transland, Thrush and BASF products were reported. BASF reported that a brand-new insecticide has made it through the EPA registration process called Inscalis, which is exciting. The product covers a broad spectrum of crops, including soybeans, and there is no required pollinator protection wording on the label.
Safety & Federal Aviation Regulations: The committee briefly discussed the Pulsar pilot fatigue study that USAIG had planned to invest $25,000 if NAAA or NAAREF invests $25,000 to monitor fatigue over a season with 100 pilots. Because of a concern with meeting the study’s population requirements and the costs of the study, following through with the program is on hold.
It was announced that Ryan Densham with Pratt & Whitney Canada has moved into another position with his company. The committee thanked him for his work on the accident analysis ad hoc committee and Rick Turner and Kyle Schroeder with Air Tractor have volunteered to take over the work of the committee. Jim Perrin offered to be the ad hoc committee chair for work on a knowledge and skills program in conjunction with FAA and NTSB.
Support Committee: The Athena program, that focuses on messages for ag aviation operation support staff to help them keep operations safe and running efficiently, will be offered at twelve different state and regional ag aviation associations. The Committee also worked on organizing the King Pins bowling fundraiser for NAAREF that will take place on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada. The cost is a $100 per person donation to NAAREF and attendees can register at www.agaviation.org. Seventy lanes have been reserved with five people on each lane or team. NAAA and NAAREF Board members are responsible for establishing their own teams. Transportation will be provided to the event. It was also announced that the committee will host a convention food/wine pairing lunch on Monday, Dec. 3 sponsored by John Garr. RSVPs are required. The Athena Program presentation will be offered on Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 9-11 a.m., which will be sponsored by Holzwarth Flying Service. Also, the committee will have a 50/50 raffle. Tickets are $20 each or six for $100. The merchandise booth will open Tuesday and Wednesday during NAAA Trade Show hours on the exhibit hall floor. Sue Stewart will serve as the next Support Committee Chairwoman.
NAAREF: NAAREF announced its safety session will feature SMS or safety management systems within ag aviation operations and how they might enhance safety at operations. It was also announced that Eric Rojek of Thrush agreed to take the NAAREF board position held by Ryan Densham, who is no longer able to serve due to requirements for his new position and Pratt and Whitney.
State Reports: It was announced that the Arkansas Golf Tournament will take place Oct. 21-22 and profits will go to NAAREF.
Erin Morse (WA) provided an update on the Washington state legislation that she reported on at the February meeting that would have required several days’ notice before an aerial pesticide application could be made. After much hard work by WAAA action is still awaiting from Washington state’s governor’s office but appears favorable that pre-notification is off the table.
Dale Patterson (SD) reported that their state was able to require attendance of PAASS for their licensing and the quality of the PAASS program was instrumental in this.
The Board meeting then adjourned at 4:45 PM PST on October 6, 2018, not to reconvene again until the December meeting in Reno, Nevada as part of the 52nd AgAviation Expo.