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...
EAGL Graduates

February 22, 2017

Emerging Industry Leaders Earn Business Management Certification

Dr. Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair for International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, recently announced the graduation of the fourth cohort of the elite Executive Academy for Growth & Leadership (EAGL) program for nursery and greenhouse growers.

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers List

February 18, 2017

Top 100 Growers Survey for 2017 Is Now Open!

Operations with more than 400,000 square feet of environmentally controlled production are eligible to take the survey, which only takes a few minutes to complete.

Read More

February 17, 2017

How to Keep Customers Coming Back With Top-Notch Service

A recent article on Forbes.com outlines seven ways organizations can take their customer service from good to great and beyond.

Read More
Latest Stories
EAGL Graduates

February 22, 2017

Emerging Industry Leaders Earn Business Management Cert…

Dr. Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair for International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, recently announced the graduation of the fourth cohort of the elite Executive Academy for Growth & Leadership (EAGL) program for nursery and greenhouse growers.

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers List

February 18, 2017

Top 100 Growers Survey for 2017 Is Now Open!

Operations with more than 400,000 square feet of environmentally controlled production are eligible to take the survey, which only takes a few minutes to complete.

Read More

February 17, 2017

How to Keep Customers Coming Back With Top-Notch Servic…

A recent article on Forbes.com outlines seven ways organizations can take their customer service from good to great and beyond.

Read More
Tom Foley, WaterPulse

February 17, 2017

Industry Veteran Tom Foley Discusses His New Role as Vi…

Foley, a greenhouse industry veteran who was most recently with EuroAmerican Propagators, will be responsible for North American sales of WaterPulse’s patent-pending capillary mats and associated irrigation systems to nurseries and growers.

Read More
EuroAmerican Propagators Greenhouses

February 14, 2017

Suppliers Comment on Plant Genetics’ Fate After EuroAme…

Since the operation’s bankruptcy filing on January 23, 2017, suppliers associated with EuroAmerican Propagators have updated Greenhouse Grower on what the operation’s bankruptcy means for them – and how it will impact grower customers.

Read More
Bill Hoffman at Hoffman Nursery

February 14, 2017

Hoffman Nursery Has a New Head Grower

Bill Hall brings more than 30 years of experience to Hoffman. In the past, he has worked for Carolina Nurseries, AG 3, and ArborGen.

Read More
Jaime LeFlem, Pleasant View Gardens

February 10, 2017

Pleasant View Gardens Taps Jaime LeFlem as New Sales Ma…

LeFlem, who will manage Pleasant View’s finished and garden-ready programs, says that despite some market challenges, he still sees plenty of room for growth.

Read More
Janeen Wright

February 9, 2017

Don’t Let Millennials Take GenXers off Your Plant Radar

We’ll miss opportunities to sell plants if we focus on Millennials too much at the expense of other age groups.

Read More
Floriculture Sustainability Initiative Web

January 31, 2017

European Growers Move Forward With Floriculture Sustain…

During IPM Essen, members of the initiative introduced new efforts targeting social environmental standards such as working conditions, water use, and more.

Read More
MANTS

January 30, 2017

MANTS Kicks Off 2017 Growing Season With Record-Breakin…

More than 10,000 people walked through the trade show on the first day of the event, which welcomes growers, retailers, and others to keep up with the latest green industry trends.

Read More

January 25, 2017

59 New Members of Congress Need to Hear from You, SAF S…

Retailers, wholesalers, suppliers, and growers coming to the Society of American Florists' (SAF) 37th Annual Congressional Action Days, March 13-14 in Washington, DC, have a lot of explaining to do. There are 59 new congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill, and this freshmen class needs a lesson about floriculture.

Read More
bouldin-lawson-pro-sticking-line-at-north-creek-nurseries

January 25, 2017

State of the Industry 2017: Growers are Ready to Invest…

Greenhouse Grower's 2017 State of the Industry Survey revealed that grower investment in technology is imminent due to the cost and availability of labor, to improve efficiency, expand their growing operations, and allow employees to concentrate on higher value jobs that are less labor-intensive.

Read More

January 24, 2017

Beekenkamp Plants B.V. to Take Over Marketing Sunny Ost…

Beekenkamp Plants B.V. will take over Sunny Holland B.V.'s marketing activities as of July 1, 2017, and begin offering Sunny Osteospermum to the supply chain.

Read More

January 24, 2017

Growers are an Aging Demographic, 2017 State of the Ind…

Owners and upper management of growing operations in the horticulture industry, not unlike others in agriculture, are aging, according to Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 State of the Industry Survey.

Read More
Biocontrols and beneficials absolutely can be used in outdoor production, with the use of banker plant systems

January 24, 2017

Growers Becoming More Sustainable but Most Think Climat…

Greenhouse Grower's 2017 State of the Industry Survey revealed that growers are adopting biocontrols and organic production, yet 58% of growers said they don't believe humans can control climate change.

Read More

January 24, 2017

State of the Industry Survey Says 2017 Will be a Year o…

Growers, suppliers, and researchers who took Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 State Of The Industry Survey say they are ready to drive change and profitability in horticultural businesses.

Read More
Bee BMPs

January 24, 2017

Here’s a New Guide for Growers on Best Management Pract…

The Horticultural Research Institute, the research foundation of AmericanHort, has released a guide on “Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Bee Health in the Horticultural Industry.”

Read More
Spring Meadow Nursery Fire

January 17, 2017

Two Major Growers Recovering and Rebuilding After Fires

The blazes occurred at Dan Schantz Farm and Greenhouses in Zionsville, PA, and Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, MI. Both companies say no employees were injured, and they plan to pull together and stay on schedule for the remainder of the year.

Read More