May 30, 2018Biological Products Industry Alliance talks to growers, lawmakers
Biological products have long been used in agriculture, but the rapid introduction of new biological products has created a learning curve for growers who are used to chemical products.
Biocontrols companies have many different products for a multitude of crops, but they do have a common industry association, the Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA). The group’s executive director, Keith Jones, has been an attorney for more than 20 years, with most of his career focused on environmental issues and trade groups such as BPIA.
He was hired as BPIA’s director at the end of 2015, and in a little under two years the association’s membership has grown by nearly 50 percent. It’s not just about recruiting more members: a large part of the job is educating growers and federal policymakers.
Jones recently participated in a question-and-answer session with Vegetable Growers News about BPIA and where the industry is headed.
Keith Jones: Our members range from small, innovative sole proprietors to large, international companies, and our membership categories include basic manufacturers, growers, food processors, marketers, distributors and service providers. What they all have in common is a commitment to the growth and the success of the biological products industry, and when I say biological products, I specifically mean biopesticides and biostimulants.
VGN: What do you think is the single biggest misconception or misunderstanding growers have about biocontrols?
Jones: Unfortunately, the single biggest misconception about biological products is still the fiction that they may not work. The reality is that we now have decades of research, field trials, and performance history which prove that they do work.
VGN: How would you correct that?
Jones: The only way to correct this misperception is through education. At the end of the day, education is what BPIA is all about. We educate members of Congress and their staff through our Capitol Hill Days. We educate federal and state regulators through workshops and conferences. We educate growers and the public through our website, publications, symposiums and webinars.
VGN: How far has the biocontrols industry come in the last three years?
Jones: In the last three years, we have seen explosive growth with the industry reaching over $3 billion in sales worldwide. North America is still the dominant market accounting for about 40 percent of the global demand for biological products, but Europe is the fastest growing market being driven by consumer awareness and increasing regulatory pressures.
VGN: Where do you think the industry is headed?
Jones: The most recent projections I have seen for just biopesticides predict that the industry will hit $4.1 billion in global sales by 2018. Even the most conservative sources predict that the compound annual growth rate will exceed 15 percent for the next five years through 2022, more than twice that of the traditional crop protection market.
VGN: A congresswoman once spoke at a BPIA event. What kind of reception are you getting from lawmakers and government agencies?
Jones: We have a very active Government Affairs Committee. Four times per year, BPIA holds Capitol Hill Days where we bring our members from across the country and all over the world to meet with members of the United States Congress and their staff, so we can educate them about the biological products industry including our successes and challenges. When our members explain what their products are and how they work, lawmakers, like most people, are excited about their potential benefits for sustainable agriculture.
VGN: It’s a relatively new field, technology and regulations are changing fast, and there are a lot of startup companies with different products to offer. Where’s a good place to start?
Jones: There is a lot of information out there, and it can be overwhelming for someone who is just starting to look into biological products. Of course, I think the best place to start is our website (www.bpia.org) or attending one of our meetings or workshops. We (held) our 2018 Spring Meeting and International Symposium in San Diego, California, and we’ll be holding our 2018 Fall Meeting and Sustainability Symposium in Rochester, New York on Oct. 9-10. Everyone is welcome. You don’t have to be a BPIA member to attend.
VGN: One of the things I like about my job is learning new developments in the technology of farming. What’s one of the most exciting things you’ve seen or heard of in biocontrol recently?
Jones: Biological products are best known for their use in commercial agriculture, but we are seeing an increasing use in what we call specialty markets such as ornamentals, public health and turf. I was recently at a golf industry conference where several people told me stories about golf courses that have completely abandoned the use of synthetic products and are only using biological products. While BPIA believes integrated pest management is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach, it was exciting to hear that a venue like a golf course, where the appearance and conditions of the greens are of critical importance, could be maintained with only biological products.
Above: Keith Jones is executive director of the Biological Products Industry Alliance. Photo: BPIA