Q&A with Aaron Hobbs

Q: What specific factors/market conditions prompted a committed group of industry leaders to create RISE 25 years ago?

RISE was created in 1991 to address the critical needs of the specialty pesticide industry. At that time the most critical need was addressing attacks at the federal level on the lawn and turf uses of pesticides and on federal preemption.

Q: How has the organization’s mission evolved over time?

We have stayed true to the RISE mission, which has always been to protect our industry’s ability to operate and to provide effective pest management and plant health solutions to the marketplace. We have and will always represent all sectors of the specialty industry — both pesticides and fertilizers. Over time we have become very flexible, which allows us to shift our focus to meet the needs of our members and their customers in the current environment. We have been strategic about expanding our capabilities to become the only association defending preemption at the state and local levels.

Q: On a day-to-day basis, how does RISE protect/advance the interests of the specialty pesticide and fertilizer industry?

Everything we do supports our advocacy. We work across all channels, mainly through engagement with EPA, policy makers, members, members’ customers, allies, consumers, and media. Our engagement includes old fashioned face-to-face dialogue and collaboration, along with social and traditional media and grassroots.

Q: What are some of the key issues being addressed by RISE today? How are those issues different/similar to issues of the past?

Maintaining federal and state preemption is job one and a job we continue do very well. I believe this issue will always need our leadership to promote and defend it. Pollinator health now forms a big part of the preemption issue, and has changed relatively quickly from being something new into simply a different tactic to attack preemption — both EPA’s regulatory authority and policy at the state level.

The expansion of the Clean Water Act is another issue that has evolved over our history. We’ve worked state and local issues related to nutrients and most recently worked to oppose expansion of the Clean Water Act at the federal level. Overall, our issues remain somewhat constant, but evolve with time as does our approach to them.

Q: In your opinion, what has been RISE’s most significant accomplishment since becoming an association?

Building our grassroots advocacy capacity has been one of our most important strategic activities and began virtually from the day the doors opened at RISE. Also, our work to defend preemption is the other defining activity of the association.

Q: What has been the organization’s most significant disappointment?

Ongoing efforts to dilute and weaken the federal definition of IPM are something we find very challenging to address because of the range of stakeholders and many definitions being promoted and published.

Q: What is RISE doing currently to remain relevant for the next 25 years?

We are always asking, listening, observing, learning, and are flexible in our approach to our issues. We really focus on being successful as defined by our members, and not by being bound to “the way we’ve always done it.” This means we are willing to take risks in our approach to issues, in the use of new tools, and being in any conversation about our industry anywhere.

Q: There’s been some discussion about rebranding the organization. What has prompted those discussions and where do those efforts currently stand?

Our Communications Committee volunteered to kick off the discussion this summer. The discussion about our brand was prompted by good questions from our members about what our brand is delivering for us at the 25-year mark, especially given all of the new communication channels available to us. We know there are some challenges communicating who we are to certain audiences. Our goal is to be as accessible as possible to all of our stakeholders, so the Communications Committee’s look at our brand is timely and relevant.

Q: What are your hopes/aspirations for RISE members in the years ahead?

My aspiration for our members is that they continue to be innovative leaders and that they expect the same from their association. Our goal is to deliver value every day in an innovative way. Also, I want members to continue to expect us to be leaders for the industry and to make the necessary investment in the association for it to grow and become even more effective with a broader reach.

Q: At the end of your career, what would you like RISE members to say about your tenure leading the association?

I would like them to say we learned, we grew, we tried new things and we were successful. We weren’t afraid to take risks to be successful and we listened and responded to the industry’s needs.

Q: Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like to comment on?

We are just wrapping up a very successful first year executing against our new five-year strategic plan. Our volunteer leaders have fully embraced the new plan and are working hard to achieve our mission. I’m excited about the future of our industry and association as we work to achieve our vision: an industry free to create inspiring and healthy places where we live, work and play. With the continued leadership of our governing board and all of our member volunteers, I know we will have many more successes to discuss over the next 25 years.

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