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...
Obscura Screens From Svensson feature

July 28, 2016

3 New Products For Cannabis Producers

From screens to fertilizers to lighting, here are three new products that might help enhance your cannabis production system.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Advance Industry’s Policy Priorities In Washington

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Obscura Screens From Svensson feature

July 28, 2016

3 New Products For Cannabis Producers

From screens to fertilizers to lighting, here are three new products that might help enhance your cannabis production system.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More
Workers

July 23, 2016

5 Reasons To Invest In Employee Training

Training and developing your employees is critical to the future success of your organization and the horticulture industry at large. Here are five reasons why your employees are worth the effort.

Read More
BeeSmart

July 21, 2016

How You Can Get Involved In Research

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) supports scientific research and students for the advancement of the horticultural industry.

Read More
Luxflora Flower Run

July 20, 2016

First-Ever Flower Run Was A Big Success, Luxflora Says

Kicking off Cultivate’16 on Sunday, July 10, Luxflora’s first annual 5K saw nearly 150 participants racing through the picturesque Scioto Audubon Park in Columbus under clear blue skies and perfect conditions. It was a great way to start the week, participants said. Congratulations to the winners of the first-ever Flower Run: First Place: Jacob Griffith Gardner Second Place: Mike Goyette Third Place: Jack Ford The top three winners — and all of the Flower Run participants — were showered with flower petals when they crossed the finish line, making for a colorful and fragrant finish to an invigorating experience. “Personally, I would consider it a grand success,” says Luxflora President Rebecca Lusk. “The overall mood was fantastic, from start to finish. There were many high fives and group hugs, numerous duo phone selfies and postings to social media, while participants enjoyed their bananas and bottled water donated by Experience Columbus. Most […]

Read More

July 19, 2016

Do You Grow Young Plants? Only 4 Days Left To Take Our …

If your operation produces plugs or liners for wholesale growers, please take a few minutes to participate in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Young Plant Grower Survey. We know you are very busy and we value your time and input. This survey should only take a few minutes. Greenhouse Grower’s Young Plant Grower Survey has played a key role in building our Top 20 Young Plant Growers list over the years. The information helps us zero in on trends taking shape and the challenges you’re facing as young plant growers. If you have any questions about this survey or you are not the right contact for this at your operation, please email me at [email protected], or please forward the survey link to the appropriate person. We would like to wrap up this survey by July 25, so please take it soon! Thank you in advance for your participation. We value your opinion! » […]

Read More

July 9, 2016

Market The Experience Of Gardening, Minus The Fuss

Greenhouse Grower editor Laura Drotleff says the industry should promote plants and gardening in bite-size chunks that help consumers build skills.

Read More
Grower Education

July 7, 2016

Two Industry Veterans Discuss How To Meet The Challenge…

Two industry players have a conversation on how we can deliver the level of grower education needed to address complex issues associated with production practices and pest management strategies.

Read More
Briscoe White, Growers Exchange

July 6, 2016

The Grower’s Exchange Unlocks The Secret to E-Commerce

In the Internet era, Briscoe and Kenan White knew they had to adapt or die and specialize to survive. Here’s how they took The Grower’s Exchange online.

Read More
Brie Arthur

July 6, 2016

5 Can’t-Miss Events To Watch For At Farwest 2016

Whether it’s classes on biocontrols and gardening trends, or networking opportunities in and around the trade show floor, there’s plenty happening at Farwest 2016 in Portland, OR, in August.

Read More
'Violets Pride' from Week's Roses Downton Abbey Garden Rose Collection

July 6, 2016

6 Key Insights From The Generations Of Flowers Study

Being local and offering expert recommendations are hidden opportunities in the floral business. This was one of six insights during a recent webinar analyzing the Generations of Flowers study from the Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment.

Read More
Joe Lamp'l

July 1, 2016

Gardening Personality Joe Lamp’l Will Be Keynote Speake…

Lamp’l, who hosts the PBS series “Growing a Greener World,” will discuss effective ways to build your business and keep your customers.

Read More
Cannabis states 2016

July 1, 2016

Adult Use Of Cannabis On The Ballot In 2016

25 states have legalized cannabis and public opinion is increasingly positive. Here’s where things may be headed as we move toward the fall elections.

Read More
Robert Conrad, Ball Seed Technology Research Manager

June 27, 2016

Ball Premier Lab Wins Medal Of Excellence Award For Its…

Over the past 30 years, the Ball Premier Lab has set the standard for high-quality seed in the industry, earning it Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Medal Of Excellence for Industry Achievement, for its dedication to advancing seed and helping growers improve their margins.

Read More
North Creek Nurseries lower trials

June 24, 2016

North Creek Nurseries Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation …

North Creek Nurseries in Landenberg, PA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Sustainable Production award for 2016.

Read More
Vic Frey, Kurt Weiss Greenhouses Feature

June 23, 2016

Vic Frey Named A Finalist For 2016 Head Grower Of The Y…

Vic Frey, a finalist for the 2016 Head Grower of the Year and recipient of the 2016 Excellence In Production award, was always willing to trial and experiment with the latest technology. He loved the constant change in this industry, and turned every opportunity into a teaching moment.

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