Industry Advocate: What’s in store for the green industry in 2023

December 14, 2022 -  By
(Photo: Adam Smigielski/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

(Photo: Adam Smigielski/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, nor do I think much of lofty prognostications about the year ahead, but I guess I could give it a try. Let’s see what the future might hold for the industry in the political arena.

Macro and microeconomic pressures

The effects of inflation attack your business from every angle, and it’s challenging, to say the least. The forces that cause food prices to skyrocket are the same forces driving up the price of fertilizer, pesticides, fuel and labor.

Economically, our industry is adjacent to the agricultural sector. We use many of the same inputs. The urea in our fertilizer is the same commodity that’s traded internationally as an agriculture plant nutrient. Urea is produced by reacting natural gas with atmospheric nitrogen, so when the price and availability of natural gas are an issue, so are the price and availability of urea.

A blizzard of new legislation

As soon as Congress and the state legislatures are sworn in, politicians begin filing bills. We monitor legislation daily, searching through thousands of possible bills for ones that could impact your business. We track these bills through the legislative process and engage as appropriate with our Advocacy Contact Team nationwide. Want to help out? We could sure use it! Drop me a line, and I’ll tell you more.

EPA registration decisions

Under requirements in the Food Quality Protection Act, all active ingredients for pesticides must be reregistered every 15 years. This provision consistently evaluates pesticides with up-to-date scientific standards with an eye on human health and environmental protection. The first 15-year deadline passed on Oct. 1, with many active ingredients not completing a review. There is some question about what this means for us. Will the products continue to be available under the previous regulation? “Yes” is the answer we get from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We’re unsure about what the environmental nonprofit groups will do. Keep your eyes open for further updates.

Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a facet of pesticide policy that had not been on our radar until recently. The ESA says if a federal government action, like the registration of a pesticide, can adversely affect an endangered species or its habitat, it must be assessed (in our case by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) to see if that action will jeopardize the species.

This requirement is above and beyond what is already required in the risk assessment process in the federal law governing pesticides. What does this mean for the green industry? It’s likely future pesticide registrations will come with new requirements to protect endangered species. This may include restrictions on where products may be used or a list of mitigations on the label. We will work with EPA to ensure regulations are fairly and logically applied.

A new Farm Bill

The federal Farm Bill comes up for consideration in the coming year. While this legislation deals with agricultural and food policy, our industry is championing two issues. The first is funding for research and statistical analysis of the nation’s turfgrass. A thorough analysis on the national level is necessary to push back on dubious claims by anti-lawn groups based on modeling and not data.

Second, we continue to fight for an amendment to the federal pesticide law to close a loophole that allows local regulation of pesticide products. A 1993 Supreme Court case opened the door to local regulation, but most states stepped in soon after to pass legislation that plugged that hole.

Unfortunately, activists are interested in employing strategies and tactics used in Ontario, Canada, in the early 1990s that led to the overturning of a pesticide preemption law. Our efforts seek to establish a consistent set of rules that are science-driven, equitable and consistent.

Going local

In the U.S., we have a well-developed regulatory system for fertilizer and pesticide use rooted deeply in science. When those who disagree with how federal and state governments go about regulating, they turn their attention to cities and towns. We’ve already seen efforts to repeal state preemption of pesticide regulations in several states, which would lead to a patchwork of contradictory regulations if passed.

Gas to electric

I could be wrong, but I sense that landscapers are open to adopting battery-powered equipment as long as performance is at parity and the return on investment is positive. Unfortunately, some politicians are determined to ban landscape equipment long before the industry is ready to transition.

Our position is that the industry embraces our responsibility to employ sustainable practices, but we need the time to do so responsibly and we need tax breaks and other incentives for broad adoption.

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About the Author:

Bob Mann, LIC, formerly the agronomist for Lawn Dawg, is the director of state and local government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

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