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...
North Creek Nurseries lower trials

June 24, 2016

North Creek Nurseries Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of The Year

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 Year

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
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

June 19, 2016

Albert Grimm Named A Finalist For 2016 Head Grower Of The Year

Grimm, winner of Greenhouse Grower's Excellence in Outreach and Leadership award, is always willing to listen, continuously learn, and improve. He is a role model and empowers his employees to strive for excellence.

Read More
Latest Stories
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
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

June 19, 2016

Albert Grimm Named A Finalist For 2016 Head Grower Of T…

Grimm, winner of Greenhouse Grower's Excellence in Outreach and Leadership award, is always willing to listen, continuously learn, and improve. He is a role model and empowers his employees to strive for excellence.

Read More
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Ornamental kale field at Sunlet Nursery

June 17, 2016

Sunlet Nursery Named As Finalist For 2016 Operation Of …

Sunlet Nursery in Fallbrook, CA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Community Leadership award for 2016.

Read More
The-Capitol

June 14, 2016

Fate Of H-2B Program A Hot Topic On Capitol Hill This W…

Following a Senate hearing on the economic impact of the H-2B Program, the House Appropriations Committee was scheduled to take up its own version of a funding bill this week.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of T…

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

Read More
Mike Goyette, Pleasant View Gardens

June 14, 2016

Mike Goyette Named A Finalist For 2016 Head Grower Of T…

Goyette, winner of Greenhouse Grower's Excellence In Quality Award, is never satisfied with the status quo and is constantly looking for improvements in procedures, plant quality, employee organization, and the bottom line.

Read More
North American greenhouse 1

June 8, 2016

University Of Arkansas Offering Online Greenhouse Manag…

The course, which can be taken 24 hours a day, will cover basic greenhouse designs and construction materials, benching systems, glazing materials, lighting, heating systems, and much more.

Read More

June 7, 2016

Ball Seed Offers Full Mobile Ordering Capabilities With…

The latest update for Ball Seed’s WebTrack To Go mobile app now includes full ordering capabilities for the industry’s largest assortment of seeds and plants. App users can also complete order fulfillment via seed count or package size, find product substitutions, get personalized “contact us” information, request plant tags, and more. “Upgrading WebTrack To Go to the full suite of ordering and management tools is where we’ve always wanted to be,” says Mark Morris, Director of IT for Ball Seed. “With this new roll-out, we’re keeping up with our customers on-the-go and providing them the information and access they need –- even while away from their desks.” The Ball Seed WebTrack To Go app lets customers: Check order status and shipment tracking 24-7 Access up-to-the-minute product inventory from hundreds of suppliers Place orders by seed count, packet size, and more Find product info, culture and photos when and where they […]

Read More

June 7, 2016

Meet Ken Fisher, AmericanHort’s New President And…

The AmericanHort Board of Directors has named Ken Fisher as the organization’s next President and Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Fisher has 20 years of experience leading public and privately-held companies, including iconic consumer brands with The Coleman Company and Elmer’s Products Inc. Fisher’s diverse business experience will further the vision and strategy of AmericanHort, while bringing proven organizational management to achieve the desired results, the AmericanHort Board says. “We know the industry values our advocacy work and educational programs, especially Cultivate. Ken’s expertise will assist us in enhancing existing offerings, while adding new value that will broaden our membership,” says Dale Deppe, AmericanHort Board Chairman. “The pace of change in our industry is rapid, and he has experience successfully leading organizations through both business and regulatory cycles. Ken’s business growth track record is exactly what AmericanHort needs as we enter our next chapter, which I am confident will be […]

Read More
Sakata Birthday Cake Feature

May 28, 2016

10 Creative Marketing Ideas From 2016 California Spring…

Grower-retailers often look to breeders for ideas on how to increase plant sales with smart marketing plans. The California Spring Trials were filled with great concepts to reach customers.

Read More
Costa Farms won International Grower of the Year. Representing the operation, (left to right) were Chuck Zala, Michael Vera, Menachem Ganon, Jose Costa, and Mike Rimland

May 24, 2016

AIPH Seeking Entries For Its International Grower of th…

The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) is inviting ornamental growers from all around the world to enter the AIPH International Grower of the Year Awards (IGOTY) for 2017. Last year’s big winner was Florida-based Costa Farms.

Read More
Gotham Greens Atrium Style Greenhouse Chicago

May 23, 2016

What’s Good For The Environment Is Good For Business [O…

Investing in technology to become more sustainable “always goes hand in hand,” says Abe VanWingerden, co-CEO of Metrolina Greenhouses. “If it is good for the environment, it normally is good for business over the long term.” That connection was abundantly clear in the responses we received to this year’s Top 100 Growers Survey. VanWingerden points to three investments Metrolina has made as good examples of how technology can reduce an operation’s carbon footprint and pay dividends financially. Its biomass system burns locally sourced waste wood — a renewable resource; its ozone water treatment system cleans irrigation water, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and improving plant quality and precision growing; and electrostatic sprayers reduce water and chemical use, and provide more targeted chemical applications. Other Top 100 Growers have found VanWingerden’s theory to be true, as well. Costa Farms’ investment in solar energy panels on three buildings at its […]

Read More
Top 100 Drone Image Feature

May 16, 2016

Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers Talk Technolo…

The Top 100 Growers are already by nature some of the most technologically advanced greenhouse operations, due to their sheer size and need for efficiency. Many of the largest growers also serve big box merchandisers and home improvement chains, where prices are dictated, so producing plants at the lowest possible cost is essential to growers not only staying in business, but also profiting and expanding their operations. This year’s survey focused on the automation and technology the Top 100 Growers are investing in, and how these advancements have improved their operations, as well as how they have affected growers’ labor issues. We also asked growers about how they’re solving labor issues, where they’re recruiting new hires, and how they’re keeping their people committed. Lean management programs and sustainability certifications have become higher priorities in the past several years, due to growers’ needs to run efficiently and focus attention on sustainable […]

Read More
PrairieSplendor_CompactRose Syngenta Flowers March 2016

May 16, 2016

New “Generations Of Flowers” Study Tracks How And Why C…

The Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment have released an update and analysis of this study, which first began in 2009.

Read More

May 12, 2016

AmericanHort Is Hosting A Greenhouse Tour In New Jersey…

The Field and Covered Production Tour takes place Sept. 14-15, and features stops at Overdevest Nurseries, Centerton Nursery, and Lucas Greenhouses.

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers With Drone

May 10, 2016

Reading The 2016 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Ranki…

Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers survey reveals continued growth among the nation’s largest operations.

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