OFA Bulletin Nov/Dec 2009 : Page 2

OFA Mission Statement To support and advance professional horticulture. OFA – an Association of Horticulture Professionals 2130 Stella Court Columbus, Ohio 43215-1033 USA 614-487-1117 Fax: 614-487-1216 ofa@ofa.org www.ofa.org OFA Bulletin November/December 2009 NUMBER 918 Editorial Staff Stephen A. Carver, Ph.D. Laura Kunkle Editor Alicia Wells Contributors Raymond Cloyd Tom C. Creswell Jennifer H. Dennis Charles R. Hall Julia Hofley Roberto G. Lopez Leonard Perry Craig J. Regelbrugge Gail E. Ruhl Laurie Scullin Kate Terrell Life After Health Care? A by Craig J. Regelbrugge s the August recess ended and Congress returned to Washington, all eyes were on the health care debate. The summer break will long be remembered for its raucous town hall meetings and wild claims – from both sides of the aisle. In an effort to recapture lost momentum and shore up public support, President Obama took to the stage and addressed a joint session of Congress on September 9 to emphasize the importance that the administration places on the success of this legislative initiative. This represented a step rarely taken, outside of the State of the Union, except in times of great crisis or even war. ANLA is closely monitoring the health care debate, with a special eye toward any employer mandates and the treatment of seasonal or intermittent workers. The last chapter is far from written, and few are predicting the outcome or timing. That said, health care clearly threatens to consume most of the legislative calendar for the remainder of 2009. Where this leaves other Congressional leadership priorities like climate change and immigration reform during the 111th Congress is uncertain. What Else Is on the Agenda? Beyond health care, climate change and immigration reform have significant importance for the green industry. And both are on the “short list” that Congressional leaders have pledged to address during the 111th Congress. The climate change issue could be a Published Bimonthly Copyright© OFA 2009. Permission is hereby given to reprint articles appearing in this OFA Bulletin provided the following reference statement appears with the reprinted article: “Reprinted from the OFA Bulletin, (phone: 614-487-1117) November/December 2009, Number 918.” No endorsement is intended for products mentioned in this OFA Bulletin, nor is criticism meant for products not mentioned. The authors and OFA assume no liability resulting from the use of practices printed in this OFA Bulletin. 2 very mixed bag for greenhouse and nursery growers. While a new carbon “cap and trade” system is hardly a certain outcome, such a system could dramatically increase the cost of energy, fertilizer, plastic, and other inputs used in the production of plants. On the other hand, plants themselves should be seen as part of the solution. Toward that end, the House-passed climate change bill included urban tree plantings as a recognized carbon offset. It also included a program that would encourage utilities to partner with community groups to install plant material like shade trees for energy conservation purposes. We are starting to get some traction with the argument that plants are more than pretty. They offer ecosystem benefits ranging from air- and water- quality mitigation to energy conservation to carbon capture. If the role of plants and managed landscapes ends up getting proper recognition in a climate change bill, major investments in plants could become a driver of future green industry growth and success, much as Lady Bird Johnson’s highway beautification initiative drove growth some decades ago. How will climate change fare in the Senate? If a bill is produced, expect it to be far more moderate than its House-passed counterpart. First, any bill needs to be able to sustain 60 or more of the 100 Senate votes to overcome a filibuster. With Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death, Democrats have 59 votes. Plus, a number of southern and farm-state Democrats take a moderate stance on the issue. So the Democrats cannot prevail without maintaining unity and attracting a few Republican votes. A Nancy Pelosi/Henry Waxman-type climate bill won’t happen in the Senate. After health care and climate change, immigration is the third “big thing” that Congress might try to tackle. The issue is vital to the green industry since immigrant labor is an integral part of the industry’s labor force, and much of it is feared to be improperly documented. If all the unauthorized immigrant workers disappeared tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that a combination of new U.S. worker applicants, plus mechanization and automation, could compensate for the loss of human capital. Recent enforcement actions involving agricultural businesses generally, and at least one major floriculture operation specifically, have illustrated the point. Immigration enforcement is continuing under the Obama administration. In fact, the Homeland Security Department is conducting a record number of Form I-9 audits. While the audits are not the stuff of front page news that past immigration raids have been, the net effect is about the same: Employers lose experienced workers, workers and their families lose their livelihood, and the very survival of targeted businesses – most of whom are meeting their obligations under the law – is called into question. O F A B u l l e t i n

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