For the first time ever, the Crop Life America PAC has endorsed a political ticket, supporting the Bush/Cheney re-election effort.

Jay Vroom, president of the Washington, D.C.-based group that represents the agricultural chemistry industry before U.S. congressional and regulatory bodies and with international agriculture and industry organizations, says while the Bush Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency “have not done everything our industry would like with regard to pesticides and crop biotechnology regulations, they’ve given us a chance to make our case – and that’s different from any recent administration in Washington that we’ve worked with.”

Speaking at the Southern Crop Production Association’s 50th anniversary conference at Savannah, Ga., Vroom said, “We thought it was worthwhile to step up and be counted, particularly as we all began to understand four years ago that election margins in 2004 would be tight and that it was our responsibility, if we’re going to be politically active, to address the request we got from the Bush/Cheney campaign to endorse and support them. We did it with a lot of introspection and thought and we think it was the right decision, particularly when we consider what the other side in this year’s election has to offer.” During the eight-year administration of President Bill Clinton, Vroom says, Ken Cook, who heads the activist Environmental Working Group, “consistently told the president that farmers did not represent a significant vote for Clinton, that he didn’t owe (farmers) anything, and that he should defer to the environmental community every time.”

Because of the political strength in the South, and because Tennessee and Arkansas have “good political activism,” Vroom says, “we were able to counter a lot of that. But I don’t think the same relationship exists in Massachusetts, and because (Democrat vice presidential candidate) John Edwards represents ‘the state of litigation’ more than the state of North Carolina, I think we will be in deep water if that ticket is elected tomorrow.”

The 2004 election campaign “has been difficult – a really tough election year, but one that is very important,” Vroom says. “We’re not presuming to tell anyone how to vote, but I think it’s important that we articulate exactly the thought process we’ve gone through at the federal level with Crop Life America to make this endorsement.”

It’s important, he says, to have an informed electorate. “It’s really dangerous, all this noise we’ve heard the past four years, over hanging chads in Florida. A lot of people – particularly in the entertainment industry and the media -- have seen it as an attractive issue to encourage get-out-the-vote campaigns. But I think there is a caveat about being informed first and voting second that is really important.

“This is a pivotal election,” Vroom says, “and will be very important in terms of both the presidential outcome and many congressional races, as to the direction of issues that are important to our industry at the federal and state levels. And in many cases, local election outcomes will be important as well, from the standpoint of development of farm team candidates for future election years.

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com