Note: On Sept. 12-13, more than 100 industry leaders convened in the nation’s capital for Impact Washington, the advocacy summit organized by AmericanHort. Briefings and lobbying visits focused on three top industry issues — the workforce and labor reform, tax reform, and horticultural research and innovation. The event also introduced many attendees to Tal Coley, who joined the AmericanHort advocacy team in August. We asked Tal, and industry veteran Craig Regelbrugge, to update us on what’s next for these top industry priorities.
The green industry’s advocacy efforts didn’t end at the close of Impact Washington. AmericanHort remains committed to making sure that legislators on Capitol Hill hear your collective industry voice. Success in this venture will depend upon the green industry paying attention to what is going on and taking action when needed. Here’s a look at what is happening in three key areas and where the industry needs to go from here.
A Rocky Path Ahead for Tax Reform
Next steps regarding tax reform center around monitoring current deliberations, advocating persistently to protect and advance the needs of the horticulture industry, and igniting grassroots action when appropriate to achieve a positive outcome.
The road ahead is a perilous one, as there is a reason why it has been 30 years since the last comprehensive tax reform effort succeeded. Congressional leaders are aware of past pitfalls and are bracing themselves for the lobbying onslaught that will coincide with the release of legislative text. Therefore, details are being released slowly.
The administration and congressional leaders released a legislative framework on September 27 in Indianapolis. The framework sheds light on certain aspects of tax reform that seem positive for our industry: no assault on cash accounting practices; full elimination of the estate tax; and interest expensing will be allowed, but the details remain uncertain. AmericanHort is pleased with the initial details, though there are still many steps to take ahead in the legislative process.
The Clock is Ticking for Workforce and Labor Reform
The immigration reform debate is back. Suddenly, the focus is on what to do about young folks who received a reprieve from deportation under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Trump has announced an end to DACA in early March 2018. Some DACA recipients work in our industry; however, many more parents of DACA kids likely do.
Congress has “T-minus six months” to figure this out. Some are pushing for a narrow DACA fix, paired with border security enhancements. Others want to see a DACA fix become an engine for broader immigration reforms, including an agricultural labor reform and mandatory E-Verify (The latter two must go together, period!). Hardliners oppose any relief at all for the so-called Dreamers, instead favoring mass deportation.
Action on an Ag bill and E-Verify is expected in early October in the House Judiciary Committee. The Ag bill Judiciary is taking up has some positive features and some significant challenges. We’ll work to improve the Ag bill as it moves through the House. A Senate version would need to garner much more bipartisan support to achieve the needed 60 votes. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Wild ride just ahead!
Horticultural Research and Innovation Funding in Debate
Impact Washington focused on two issues. The first is the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative, or FNRI, which the House has proposed to increase by $500,000. Any increase over the current $4.6 million in annual funding depends on how the government is ultimately funded beyond December 8. Secondly, we supported several key Farm Bill programs that drive research and development and plant pest mitigation efforts in horticulture.
The Farm Bill is slated to be reauthorized by Congress next year, so it was a good time to influence Congressional perspective as the debate takes shape.
AmericanHort will be working on each of these issues, every step along the way, making sure our industry’s voice is heard. You can get more background on these priorities at https://goo.gl/SWnzXN.