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PLNA e-News: Protecting Values In the Nation

PLNA Lobbies Congress on Major Green Industry Legislative Issues

Wednesday, September 20, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
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WASHINGTON, DC - Last week, over one hundred green industry business owners and staff from state and national associations gathered in Washington to meet with their Congressional delegations on three major issues affecting our industry: labor shortages, federal tax reform and federal research funding.

Representing Pennsylvania were Stephen Mostardi owner of Mostardi’s Garden Center, Susan McCoy of Garden Media Group, John Collins, President of Nursery Supplies and Gregg Robertson, government relations consultant for the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA). Alan Jones of Manor View Farm in Maryland joined the group for a meeting with Congressman Scott Perry. Alan lives in Pennsylvania.

The group met with the following members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation and/or their staff:

  • Senator Bob Casey
  • Senator Pat Toomey
  • Congressman Glenn (GT) Thompson
  • Congressman Scott Perry*
  • Congressman Dwight Evans*
  • Congressman Pat Meehan
  • Congressman Lloyd Smucker*
  • Congressman Charlie Dent
  • Congressman Bill Shuster
  • Congressman Mike Kelly
    *meeting with member

The group discussed the following issues with members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation:

Labor Shortages

Worsening labor shortages are plaguing our industry, especially our nursery and greenhouse growers, and landscape companies. Lack of sufficient workers is inhibiting business growth at a time when market conditions would otherwise support growth. The whole horticulture industry supply chain is being harmed.

For our grower employers, a legislative solution that works should address four needs:

  • Improve or replace the H-2A visa program to reduce employer burdens and streamline the process.
  • Enable experienced agricultural workers to attain legal presence and agricultural work authorization through a mechanism separate from the H-2A or replacement visa program.
  • Establish a new, flexible visa option that allows workers to move “at will” among registered employers;
  • Streamline the employer’s role in ensuring a legally authorized workforce. If E-Verify is made mandatory, it should be done only after these other reforms are achieved. And, E-Verify should replace the cumbersome I-9 process.

For landscape employers, seasonal worker relief is urgently needed. PLNA and AmericanHort support:

  •  Immediate cap and regulatory relief through the Fiscal 2018 appropriations process;
  • Permanent H-2B reform legislation to address burdensome regulatory requirements, legal uncertainties, and the arbitrary visa cap.
  • PLNA and AmericanHort support reforms proposed in the S.792, the Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act, and H.R.2004, the Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunities Now (SEASON) Act.

Federal Tax Reform

  • Firms in our industry overwhelmingly utilize cash accounting when calculating their tax liabilities. It is an essential element of our industry’s success and taking that tool away from these businesses would have a devastating effect on our growth and sustainability. It could make it difficult to get a loan on an unforeseen tax bill which resulted from a tax policy change and would routinely force firms in our industry to pay taxes on income they haven’t yet received.
  • Our industry is heavily reliant on credit financing, both to fund the day-to-day operation of our businesses, but also for expansion and modernization projects. Firms in our industry simply don’t have access to equity financing, so depriving our businesses of the ability to deduct interest expenses would significantly harm my bottom line. We strongly oppose elimination of interest expensing in the tax code.
  • Given the increase in land values in recent years, the Estate Tax disproportionately hurts those in the agricultural community as average tax liability is $3.4 million per taxable estate. What’s more, the tax accounted for only 0.6% of all federal revenue in 2015, a drop in the bucket.
  • PLNA and AmericanHort strongly support current rules allowing a step-up in the basis of inherited property when it passes to a new owner. Otherwise landowners could be faced with massive capital gains tax assessments when they go to sell an inherited asset.

Research and Innovation

Research and innovation are fundamental to the success and future growth of the horticulture industry. The industry invests in research and innovation through our foundations, such as the Horticultural Research Institute. Federal partnerships are key as well, and are justified by the industry’s economic and jobs contributions as well as the economic, environmental, and human health benefits provided by managed landscapes and “green infrastructure.”

  • PLNA and AmericanHort sought support for enhancing the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative, a unique partnership involving USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, land grant universities, and the horticulture industry. FNRI is part of the USDA-ARS base budget. The House Appropriations Committee has proposed increasing FNRI by $500,000. We support this increase.
  • We also supported three Farm Bill-funded programs that drive innovation in horticulture and other specialty crop industries:
  • Specialty Crop Research Initiative, SCRI. (Request an increase of $25 million annually in this program).
  • Section 10007 - Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program which includes the National Clean Plant Network. (Request continued funding at $75 million in 2019 – 2021, and modest increase to $82.5 million in 2022 and thereafter).
  • Specialty Crop Block Grant program (request continued funding).

The Pennsylvania team agreed that we are making progress, albeit slowly. Many now see the real labor shortage we are facing in our industry and were sympathetic to our positions on tax reform.

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