After landscapers spent Monday working among the graves at Arlington National Cemetery, they crossed the Potomac to meet with members of Congress about industry issues on Tuesday.
This year the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) instructed their members to address two key concerns: H-2B and pesticide regulations.
Since the temporary worker program was introduced in 1986, the cap on H-2B visas has remained at 66,000. This year landscapers have relied on a special exemption from the cap for returning workers – those who have held H-2B visas during any of the past three fiscal years – but that exemption is set to expire soon.
Currently, NALP members are working hard to push Senate bill 2225 and House bills 3918 and 2758, each of which would make the returning worker exemption permanent. House bill 3918 would also remove the Department of Labor from the H-2B process entirely.
Landscapers who use the program are passionate about making this change. Without it, they say, they have no assurance they will receive the workers they need for the season and thus are unable to create stable five-year business plans.
“It can put a company out of business if they’ve sold the work but don’t get the workers,” said Becky Hammond, a landscape architect at Native Edge Landscapes in Boulder, Colorado.
Colorado is the second-highest user of the H-2B program. The state had a sizable group on hand for NALP’s Day on the Hill, meeting with senators, representatives and congressional staff members.
NALP members also expressed their concerns Tuesday about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying EPA’s recent regulations on pesticides and related chemicals have not been based on sound scientific principles.
“The EPA is using precautionary measures rather than looking at the actual cost-benefit analysis,” said Kristen Fefes, executive director of Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, in a meeting with U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican member of the state’s congressional delegation. “The fear is taking over instead of the science.”
For the first time this year, NALP also used the visit to Capitol Hill to stage the “Landscape Learning Labs for Legislators,” educating members of Congress and their staffs about the benefits of professionally managed landscapes.
“We really want to introduce them to all the value the industry provides to families, to their communities and to the environment,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NALP.
Visitors were able to check out nine different booths with various learning objectives, such as why landscaping companies use H-2B, how to help pollinators, the benefits of irrigation and more.
“We have gotten a lot of interest from our members and excitement about having their members of Congress come here,” Henriksen said. “We think this is going to be a springboard for bigger and even more robust events in the future.”
Although NALP’s Day on the Hill is an annual event, the trade association encouraged its members to keep up their advocacy year-round, including outreach to their local and state politicians.
“Making your voice heard is so rare and it’s so important, so I thank you for that,” said longtime political consultant Alex Castellanos, a keynote speaker during the NALP event. “You guys grow more than plants. You grow jobs and you grow the economy.”