Affordable Care Act, Cash Accounting And Immigration Reform: An Update From D.C.

Craig Regelbrugge
Craig Regelbrugge

It’s a time of transition for horticultural businesses in America. Many who struggled mightily in the Great Recession but survived are slowly regaining their footing. Others who want to expand are understandably anxious about everything from the Affordable Care Act to labor availability to the possible elimination of cash accounting for many larger growing operations.

Change and transition are affecting the horticultural association community, too. In some cases this means exciting opportunity, as with the launch of AmericanHort on January 1, which brings together the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and OFA, the Association of Horticulture Professionals (see “AmericanHort Is Now In Office”).

Let’s take stock of where we are with respect to the most critical industry issues, and where we may be headed.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Looming Election
The new health care law that was the signature achievement of President Obama’s first term evokes strong emotions all around. Regardless of how you feel about universal health care and the government’s role, here are two big-picture observations.

First, rarely does our government do “comprehensive anything” all that well. In the case of the ACA, it’s a shame that a flawed legislative product was muscled through on a party-line basis when there were more bipartisan and market-oriented approaches out there (such as Wyden-Bennett).

Secondly, it’s also a shame that opportunities to improve the law now seem out of reach, because Republicans don’t want to fix it, they want to repeal it; Democrats, for their part, are afraid to open it up for fear of losing control. So both parties are to blame to a point.

With 2014 being an election year, you can expect continued efforts to smooth over implementation pains through continued delays (as in the employer mandate) and executive actions. There might yet be a formal delay of the individual mandate. Yet, November 2014 is a long way off. Republicans seem to be banking on public dissatisfaction with the ACA yielding gains at the ballot box. But remember, not all provisions of the ACA are unpopular. And, the launch-with-a-thud of HealthCare.gov may be a distant memory by summer. Unless they are able to offer a consistent and compelling vision of an alternative way forward, Republicans may find that the ACA has lost much viability as an election-year weapon. Which leaves them defending the starker question, “Can they govern?”

Still, voter anxiety over the ACA may have enough lasting resonance for Republicans to hold their own. Indeed, though November is a long way off, some analysts are already predicting Republicans may gain a small handful of seats in the House. No one is yet expecting another “wave” election like 1994, 2006 or 2010, in part because so many Congressional districts are “safe” seats for one party or the other. Of 435 seats in the House, only 35 or so are considered “swing” districts that are truly up for grabs in any election cycle.

Immigration Reform
ANLA has long considered modernizing our immigration system a top priority. The reasons are simple: immigrant labor sustains many American farms, nurseries, greenhouses and other horticultural businesses. Legal immigration channels, as well as temporary visa programs, are limited and bureaucratic. An enforcement-only approach to immigration will have lasting negative economic consequences, both in and beyond the industry.

The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill in June. While many provisions are controversial, the bill attracted significant bipartisan support. ANLA was heavily focused on the agricultural provisions, as well as improvements to the H-2B program, which is especially important to the landscape sector.

The House, sadly, pledged to address immigration in July, then September, then November/December. While five specific immigration bills have been approved by House committees, some of those bills (including an agricultural visa reform) are sharply partisan and not expected to pass on the House floor without significant changes.

On a brighter note, in early December, House Speaker John Boehner announced the hiring of Rebecca Tallent, Sen. McCain’s former chief of staff, as his new immigration advisor. Tallent is rock-solid on immigration policy and politics; her selection signals intent to find a path forward. With fiscal debates again expected to dominate the first quarter of 2014, the best pre-election window may be in May and June.

The odds are not great, but both political parties have reasons to want to see progress. And, the pro-reform coalition is as strong as it’s ever been, and now includes conservative voices across the business, agricultural, faith and law enforcement communities. Looking ahead, this will remain a top AmericanHort priority.

Cash Accounting
Committees in both the House and the Senate are working on broad tax reform. For business, the tradeoff may be giving up exemptions and deductions in exchange for lower corporate tax rates and a general simplification of the tax code. But for small business, such exemptions and deductions are often very important; there is reason to be concerned that general tax reform for corporate America may be disproportionately funded on the back of small businesses.

For 100 years, the nursery industry has enjoyed unique tax treatment with respect to cash vs. accrual accounting. Plant inventories in production are not considered to have value until they are sold. Existing tax rules are especially important for growers producing multi-year woody crops. But proposals in both chambers of Congress may limit the option of using cash accounting, especially for larger growers of multi-year plant crops.

AmericanHort is working quietly but aggressively behind the scenes to cultivate Congressional champions and make our case for the unique treatment that reflects unique circumstances in the industry. Whether Congress will soon take up major tax reform is an open question, but ideas that get onto paper in Washington tend to have long lifetimes. Better to make our case now.

The Regulatory Realm
Sure, Congress seems pretty dysfunctional these days. After all, they are even struggling to pass a once-every-five-years Farm Bill! Then again, most business owners don’t really want Congress to be overly productive. Meanwhile, at the regulatory departments and agencies — Labor, EPA and more — the gears keep grinding, the wheels keep turning.

The growing challenges and opportunities on the regulatory side have prompted ANLA to bulk up its team of staff talent with a regulatory and research focus. That investment, which will carry forward in the new AmericanHort, has already paid dividends as we’ve worked to collaboratively address challenges ranging from impatiens downy mildew, rose rosette disease and boxwood blight to import restrictions and inspection changes at the ports that threatened to slow imports of perishable vegetative annual cuttings.

Looking ahead, a good deal of our focus will be on plant commerce and novel approaches to plant certification. And involvement of the broader industry community that will be represented by AmericanHort will hopefully enable new initiatives to encourage wider successful use of trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants for the health, environmental and economic benefits they bring. As I said before, these are times of great change. They are also times of great opportunity for American horticulture!

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Business Management...
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More

December 6, 2016

America In Bloom Moves Forward With New Management Company

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, management of America In Bloom will transition from AmericanHort to Second Wind Management, which is owned by long-time AIB Executive Director Laura Kunkle.

Read More
bailey-nurseries-team-feature

December 5, 2016

How Bailey Nurseries Has Found Solutions To The Labor Shortage

A changing seasonal workforce led this Minnesota-based company to explore new labor sources through the H-2A program and refugee organizations, and it’s working out for the better.

Read More
Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More

December 6, 2016

America In Bloom Moves Forward With New Management Comp…

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, management of America In Bloom will transition from AmericanHort to Second Wind Management, which is owned by long-time AIB Executive Director Laura Kunkle.

Read More
bailey-nurseries-team-feature

December 5, 2016

How Bailey Nurseries Has Found Solutions To The Labor S…

A changing seasonal workforce led this Minnesota-based company to explore new labor sources through the H-2A program and refugee organizations, and it’s working out for the better.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
griffin-andrea-nelson-and-bill-watson

November 22, 2016

Griffin Adds Two Industry Veterans To Its Sales Team

Bill Watson and Andrea Nelson, the newest members of Griffin, answer questions about the state of the horticulture industry, and their role in moving it forward.

Read More

November 21, 2016

How Building New Markets Can Reduce Dependency On Your …

Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff says a smart and sustainable business goes beyond boundaries to create more demand outside of traditional channels.

Read More
griffin-expo

November 11, 2016

Griffin Announces Dates For Its 2017 Grower & Retai…

The events will take place Aug. 23-24 in Massachusetts, and Sept. 27-28 in Pennsylvania.

Read More

November 8, 2016

AmericanHort Hosting Lean Flow-Focused Webinar On Novem…

The webinar is the first in a series that will cover how Lean Flow affects your marketing, your customers, and your product offerings.

Read More
oregon-lean-flow

November 8, 2016

Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium Welcomes New Grower Memb…

The Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium, which helps the horticulture industry learn and apply Lean principles, is inviting greenhouse and nursery growers — and their suppliers — to join its 2017 program.

Read More
Great Lakes Expo

November 7, 2016

Greenhouse Growers Expo Will Focus On Improving Plant Q…

Sessions at the Greenhouse Growers Expo, which takes place in Grand Rapids, MI, in December, will focus on maintaining and increasing plant quality through successful rooting of cuttings, disease and pest management, and plant disorder diagnostics.

Read More
hoffman-nursery-owners

November 7, 2016

Hoffman Nursery Embarks On New Opportunities In Green I…

Thirty years ago, John and Jill Hoffman set off on an epic adventure to grow ornamental grasses. Today, Hoffman Nursery continues to evolve, and through its leadership, the operation is helping to secure a position for horticulture on one of the next great frontiers — green infrastructure.

Read More
urban-crops-pieter-de-smedt-and-maarten-vandecruys

November 3, 2016

Belgium-Based Vertical Farming Specialist Urban Crops O…

The opening of the new office in Miami, FL, is part of a continued expansion plan for the company, which creates tailored growth structures that are turnkey, automated, robotized, and able to be integrated into existing production facilities.

Read More
giving-tuesday

November 3, 2016

American Floral Endowment Once Again Joins Giving Tuesd…

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, floral industry supporters are encouraged to make a tax-deductible, year-end donation to AFE to help it continue providing benefits for all segments of the industry.

Read More
americanhort-plug-and-cutting-conference-2016

November 1, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Tackles Bioc…

The event included a grower tour, biocontrols workshop, and educational sessions focused on water management, labor, pest and disease control, and smart production strategies for great plug quality.

Read More
2015 GROW Summit_discussion shot

October 28, 2016

How We Can Inspire Millennials To Get Involved In Horti…

By uniting our efforts, we can attract new generations of growers and consumers to the horticulture industry, starting when they are young.

Read More
americann-cannabis-facility-in-massachusetts

October 27, 2016

Large Cannabis Greenhouse On The Horizon In Massachuset…

A Colorado company is preparing to build the largest marijuana greenhouse in Massachusetts, a sprawling, high-tech complex that could eventually expand to nearly 1 million square feet, depending on whether voters in the state approve the sale of marijuana for recreational use in November.

Read More
The tradeshow at the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo — outside of the occasional 1960s vibe, perhaps — would feel familiar to most growers

October 26, 2016

Las Vegas Will Host Two Premier Cannabis Events In Nove…

The Marijuana Business Conference And Expo and the World Of Cannabis Summit each take place in mid-November.

Read More
Cannabis Close Up

October 26, 2016

Cannabis Growers Try To Become More Sustainable

As cannabis production continues to increase in some areas, one question seems to be coming up more and more: What is the most sustainable way to grow cannabis?

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]