Whats New

Sometimes you just need to find the latest info and news industry-wide, and this is the place to find it. From business management to Washington’s impact you’ll find the latest articles and videos here.

Craig Regelbrugge July 23 2019

On July 18, President Donald Trump announced his plan to nominate Eugene Scalia to serve as Secretary of Labor. The post was vacated following the resignation of Alexander Acosta earlier this month. Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has a strong business-friendly record, but is expected to draw fierce criticism from labor unions and worker advocates. Scalia is curren...

Craig Regelbrugge July 23 2019

As the calendar flipped to July, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution designating July as “American Grown Flower Month” and encouraging consumers to buy “Certified American Gr...

Craig Regelbrugge July 23 2019

AmericanHort hosted a number of Congressional staffers at Cultivate’19 in mid-July, where they heard directly from industry leaders on pressing issues while viewing the latest plant breeding and technological advances in our industry. Cultivate provides a unique experience for federal and state lawmakers, showcasing our industry and the prosperity it provides.

Professional st...

Craig Regelbrugge July 23 2019

Congressional Democrats and the White House continue negotiations around a deal to increase the debt ceiling and impose annual federal spending caps. Speaker Pelosi hopes to reach an agreement before Congress goes on recess for the month of August. On July 19, the Speaker rejected an initial offer from the Administration that calls for $150 billion in spending cuts as debt ceiling deal negot...

Craig Regelbrugge July 23 2019

On July 18, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to raise the $7.25 federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. The bill would increase the minimum wage in steps until it reaches the $15 level. After that, the wage floor would be indexed according to growth in median wages. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would likely raise wages for about 17 million people, but may ...

Craig Regelbrugge July 23 2019

The Department of Labor (DOL) has posted on its website a copy of the long-awaited H-2A modernization proposed rule. The official version should appear in the Federal Register during the week of July 22.

The rulemak...

Craig Regelbrugge July 08 2019

Local reports from Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area suggest a cluster of I-9 audits affecting horticulture businesses is now underway, much like the June, 2018 audits and a high-profile raid that impacted businesses and workers in northern Ohio.  AmericanHort has collaborated with our Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association partner to provide compliance advice.  Membe...

Craig Regelbrugge July 08 2019

With Congress returning from its July 4 recess, the House is expected to continue to focus on passing the annual spending bills that fund the federal government. While it may seem a bit like “groundhog day,” this process may determine how many seasonal H-2B visas are available next year.

On June 19, the House of Representatives passed an 

Craig Regelbrugge June 24 2019

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has proposed a fourth list of imported items from China that are likely to be subject to retaliatory tariffs, unless the ongoing trade dispute with China is resolved.  Imports of these “list 4” items represent an estimated $300 billion in annual imports.  If the proposal is finalized, they would be subject to a 25 percent punitiv...

Craig Regelbrugge June 24 2019

In mid-June, the House of Representatives began taking action on a handful of fiscal 2020 funding bills.
On June 19, the House passed a package of spending bills that would fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Defense, State, and Energy from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020. Several amendments were filed to those bills including an amendment that woul...

Craig Regelbrugge June 24 2019

On June 19, the House of Representatives passed an FY 2020 spending package that includes funding for the Department of Labor (DOL). The spending bill contains an H-2B provision that would allow for visas to be allocated proportionally on a quarterly basis.
The House is now de...

Craig Regelbrugge June 11 2019

On June 4, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act.  The final vote tally was 237-187, with seven Republicans voting for the bill. Should t...

Craig Regelbrugge June 11 2019

In advance of the House Appropriations Committee’s expected consideration of the fiscal 2020 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, a bipartisan group of 58 Members of Congress sent 

Craig Regelbrugge May 28 2019

AmericanHort joined Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity coalition colleagues in filing official comments regarding the exemption from overtime pay for certain Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside ...

Craig Regelbrugge May 28 2019

Employers continue to struggle with how to handle “no-match” letters from the Social Security Administration, as underscored in a recent article that appeared in the New York Times.  Just a reminder that AmericanHort has developed

Craig Regelbrugge May 28 2019

Last week, employers began receiving receipts and approvals from the Department of Homeland Security for H-2B visa petitions submitted under the May 8 rule that established a process for employers to apply for an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for fiscal year 2019.  These visas are limited to returning workers who received H-2B visas in one or more of the previous three fiscal years (2016, 2...

Craig Regelbrugge May 28 2019

On May 22, the House Judiciary Committee approved the “Dream Act of 2019” (H.R. 2820).  The bill would extend legal status and create a path to citizenship for many who were brought to the United States illegally as children.  Legal status would be granted to...

Craig Regelbrugge May 13 2019

House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has initiated stakeholder negotiations with the goal of developing and advancing a bipartisan agricultural labor reform bill by early summer. AmericanHort is a direct participant in the process, reflecting our organization’s history of steady and principled leadership on the issue. If the negotiation...

Craig Regelbrugge May 13 2019

By: Craig Regelbrugge & Laurie Flanagan
On May 8, the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) finally released a rule that established a process for employers to apply for 30,000 more H-2B visas for fiscal 2019. These visas are limited to returning workers who received H-2B visas in one or more of the previous three fiscal years (2016, 2017 or 2018).

...

Craig Regelbrugge May 01 2019

In response to a request for public input, AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists filed official comments in support of continuing the Census of Horticultural Specialties.  The comments pointed out that since 1889, data collected and presented by the Census of Horticultural Specialties have been a valuable resource to the floriculture and nursery industry.  The industry rep...

Craig Regelbrugge May 01 2019

The new Farm Bill that was signed into law at the end of 2018 included a provision, supported by AmericanHort, that expanded the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) to cover asexually, or vegetatively, reproduced plants.  Since its inception in 1970, the PVPA has been the primary breeders’ rights option for breeders of seed-reproduced plant innovations. The rights granted under th...

Craig Regelbrugge May 01 2019

AmericanHort and the H-2B Workforce Coalition continue to urge the Administration to immediately make available to seasonal employers the additional 30,000 H-2B visas that it committed to releasing last month. We hope the final rule outlining the process for applying for these visas will be released shortly.

On March 29, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it plans t...

Craig Regelbrugge April 17 2019

The Social Security Administration (SSA), beginning in April 2019, has resumed sending "Employer Correction Request" letters, also known as "no-match letters," to every employer that has at least one Social Security no-match, meaning that names or Social Security numbers (SSNs) listed on an employer's Form W-2 do not match SSA's records.

The letters now ...

Craig Regelbrugge April 17 2019

USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has published a notice and request for comment regarding importation of plants established in growing media.  For context, foreign-grown plants in growing media (PIGM) are generally prohibited entry into the U.S. with the notable exception of Canada.  This is due to the fact that plants in growing media are inheren...

Craig Regelbrugge April 17 2019

Craig Regelbrugge & Laurie Flanagan

On March 29, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it plans to release an additional 30,000 H-2B visas, that but that these visas would likely be limited to returning workers who had received visas during the 2016, 2017, or 2018 program years. The Fiscal 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act had authorized Congress to rel...

Craig Regelbrugge April 17 2019

AmericanHort continues to monitor proposed changes to the overtime rules.  The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy is hosting a series of roundtable discussions on to gather input from small businesses about the potential impact of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed rule which would increase the minimum salary for the “white collar&r...

Craig Regelbrugge April 01 2019

Authors: Craig Regelbrugge & Laurie Flanagan

AmericanHort is very pleased to report that on March 29, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it plans to release an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for returning immigrant workers. This progress would not have happened without the steady advocacy push by our staff, leaders and members, state association partners...

Craig Regelbrugge April 01 2019

Though immigration and visa policy issues have become incredibly polarizing in recent years, areas of broad agreement persist. One of those is agricultural workers. On April 3, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship will hold a hearing titled “Securing the Future of American Agriculture.” The hearing precedes expected introduction of legislation that seek...

Craig Regelbrugge March 20 2019

Authors: Craig Regelbrugge & Laurie Flanagan

On February 15, President Trump signed into law a funding bill that gives DHS the authority, in consultation with the Department of Labor (DOL), to approve up to an additional 69,320 H-2B seasonal worker visas (69,320 being the number of H-2B “returning worker” visas or H-2Rs issued in FY 2007).  This is ...

Craig Regelbrugge March 20 2019

Authors: Craig Regelbrugge & Laurie Flanagan

On March 7, the Department of Labor released its revised overtime rule. The proposed rule is a significant improvement over a 2016 overtime rule promulgated by President Obama’s administration.

Under current law, employees with a salary below $455 per week ($23,660 annually) must be paid overtime if they wor...

Craig Regelbrugge March 05 2019

AmericanHort is pleased to announce those serving on the Advocacy and Public Policy Committee for 2019. The Committee, which advises the AmericanHort Board and staff on legislative, regulatory, and other policy priorities, held a virtual organizing meeting on February 21, in expectation of a busy year of both challenges and opportunities. Serving on this year’s committee are: 
...

Craig Regelbrugge March 05 2019

In employment and workforce-related news, the Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division is expected during March to propose a new salary threshold for its so-called “white collar” exemptions from overtime pay. Wage & Hour is expected to propose that workers who earn less than $35,000 a year automatically eligible for overtime pay for all hours beyond 40 a week. <...

Craig Regelbrugge March 05 2019

AmericanHort and our foundation, the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI), joined with co-founders of the National Pollinator Garden Network and others to announce the achievement of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. The goal of a million gardens to help sustain the health of diverse pollinator populations was not only achieved, but it was also exceeded. Here are a few of the key metri...

Craig Regelbrugge March 05 2019

Authors: Craig Regelbrugge and Laurie Flanagan
 
H-2B Cap Hit – On February 22, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2019 was reached on February 19. According to USCIS, it used a computer-generated process, or lottery, to determine ...

Craig Regelbrugge February 19 2019

In a recent daily blog post, economist Elliott Eisenberg reported that as of December 31, 2018, there were a record 7.335 million job openings, and 6.294 million unemployed persons, or 1.17 jobs for every unemployed person, the ninth consecutive month openings have exceeded the unemployed. Relatedly, the number of job openings has exceeded the number hired since January 2015. The number of open...

Craig Regelbrugge February 19 2019

Authors:  Craig Regelbrugge and Laurie Flanagan
 
On February 15, President Trump signed into law a funding bill for several federal agencies including the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
The funding law includes the same H-2B discretionary language as last year, which gives DHS th...

Craig Regelbrugge February 05 2019

President Trump signed into law on January 25 a three-week temporary spending measure to re-open closed federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security. As part of the agreement to fund the government through February 15, President Trump and Congress agreed to convene a conference committee to negotiate a final DHS spending package. The conferees met for the first time on Ja...

Craig Regelbrugge February 05 2019

The United Nations has announced its decision to designate 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health. The United States, along with 90 other countries, co-sponsored this resolution to raise awareness of plant health issues and strengthen global efforts in the face of increased trade and climate change. 

 

In ...

Craig Regelbrugge January 22 2019

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the “Raise the Wage Act” (H.R.582) on January 16.  The bill would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2024, index future minimum wage increases to median wage growth, and phase out the subminimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers, and workers with disabilities.  The measure ...

Craig Regelbrugge January 22 2019

The Department of Labor (DOL) sent a new proposed rule to address overtime pay to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.  This review is a required step in the rulemaking process before the proposed rule can be formally released for public comment.  While we are not sure how long the rule will be under review at the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, DOL&...

Craig Regelbrugge January 22 2019

A bipartisan group of over 30 Senators and over 90 House Members led by Reps. Pingree (D-ME) and Harris (R-MD) and Senators Tillis (R-NC) and King (I-ME) planned to send a letter to Congressional leaders on January 22 urging them to include meaningful and permanent cap relief in any agreement to end the partial government shutdown. The bipartisan, bicameral letter to Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), Hous...

Craig Regelbrugge January 08 2019

You may have received the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commercial Floriculture survey questionnaire in the mail this December. It’s a survey targeting over ten thousand floriculture operations who annually produce over $10,000 of fresh cut flowers, potted flowering plants, foliage plants, bedding and garden plants, herbaceous perennials, cut cultivated florist greens, and mor...

Craig Regelbrugge January 08 2019

One thing the last Congress did manage to finish in December was a new farm bill.  And among the beneficial provisions of the new farm bill is a new plant breeders’ rights protection option. AmericanHort successfully supported the provision, which expands the USDA-administered Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) to enable protection of asexually-reproduced plants.  ...

Craig Regelbrugge January 08 2019

With growers in many states facing mandated H-2A wage increases of up to nearly 23 percent, a legal challenge was expected to be filed on January 8.  The National Council of Agricultural Employers, in which AmericanHort is an active leader, has been preparing to file suit in U.S. Federal District Court against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), challenging that the DOL has fa...

Craig Regelbrugge January 08 2019

Craig Regelbrugge & Laurie Flanagan*

Due to capacity issues and the huge H-2B filing volume, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) iCERT online filing system crashed right after midnight on New Years Day, preventing H-2B filing for the second half of the fiscal year, as well as H-2A and other labor certification application filing.  According to the DOL, “the U....

Craig Regelbrugge January 08 2019

Craig Regelbrugge & Laurie Flanagan*

The 115th Congress officially ended at noon on January 3, and the 116th Congress was sworn in that same afternoon. The American electorate’s historic preference for divided government is again the reality; Republicans continue to control the Senate, with 53 of 100 seats, while Democrats control the House, 235 to 199, with one seat stil...

Craig Regelbrugge December 11 2018

As reported in our last edition of Impact Washington, the required minimum wages for H-2A agricultural visa program users are set to take a big jump in many parts of the country.  Based on recently-published USDA data, the national average of the so-called “adverse effect wage rate” or AEWR, is expected to increase by 6.3 percent, to $13.25, as soon as the Department o...

Craig Regelbrugge December 11 2018

As Official Washington shifted its schedule to honor and memorialize former president George H. W. Bush, President Trump signed into law a temporary spending measure to fund the federal Government through December 21, pushing off the showdown over funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a southern border wall by two weeks.  We are hopeful that Congress and the President c...

Craig Regelbrugge December 11 2018

Oh, Canada!  You are the leading export market for U.S. greenhouse and nursery plants...
 
On December 4, over 70 greenhouse plant growers interested in exporting to our northern neighbor joined AmericanHort and the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association for a webinar on the revised U.S.-Canada Greenhouse Grown Plant Certification Program.  Though part...

Craig Regelbrugge November 28 2018

Sens. James Lankford (center) and Michael Bennet (right) address Leading the Way
Sens. James Lankford (center) and Michael Bennet (right) address Leading the Way

On November 15, the National Immigratio...

Craig Regelbrugge November 28 2018

A year-end spending bill, now under discussion, is likely the last possible vehicle for H-2B cap relief.  The final spending package could be a stand-alone package that includes funding for the seven unfinished FY 2019 funding bills, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill.  Or, we could see yet another “continuing resolution” to fund those ...

Craig Regelbrugge November 28 2018

Are you a greenhouse grower who ships to the Canadian market? If so, you should learn about the newly revised U.S. – Canada Greenhouse-Grown Plant Certification Program (GCP). The GCP can make exporting easier for participating growers by allowing them to ship with a special sticker rather than having to get and pay for an inspection and phytosanitary certificate for each and every shipme...

Craig Regelbrugge November 13 2018

By: Craig Regelbrugge & Tal Coley

The Senate and House Agriculture, Judiciary, and Appropriations Committees are the three most important for AmericanHort legislative priorities.  The election results will mean a new landscape come January and the 116th Congress.  Here’s a peek ahead.

During the next Congress we do not expect significant...

Craig Regelbrugge November 13 2018

By: Craig Regelbrugge & Tal Coley

The good news: the 2018 midterm elections are finally over.  The bad news: a dozen or more races are still undecided.  Still, the contours of the new Congress have taken shape, and each party can claim some wins even as they brood over things that didn’t materialize.

You know the toplines – the Democrat...

Craig Regelbrugge November 05 2018

On November 1, AmericanHort hosted a webinar featuring several Department of Labor, Wage & Hour Division (DOL-WHD) officials.  As you may recall, DOL-WHD announced earlier this year a special “compliance and enforcement initiative” targeting the Landscape sector, and specifically, users of the H-2B temporary and seasonal visa program.  
 
W...

Craig Regelbrugge October 29 2018

By Craig Regelbrugge & Laurie Flanagan

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) recently released its “Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.” The unified agenda is a summary of administrative actions that federal agencies plan to issue in the near and longer term.
According to OIRA, the unified agenda “inclu...

Craig Regelbrugge October 29 2018

By Craig Regelbrugge and Chris Schulte

On October 25, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced new forms for H-2A applications. This is the beginning of a larger roll-out of promising H-2A administrative reforms from the DOL in cooperation with the Departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security. There will be a 60-day comment period on the proposed changes to the forms with...

Craig Regelbrugge October 29 2018

With the 2018 midterm elections bearing down, the AmericanHort Political Action Committee, PlantPAC, has been working hard to support the reelection of some of horticulture’s best friends in Congress. On October 17 and 18, PlantPAC was pleased to join leading AmericanHort members at two hugely successful events in California.
 
The first, in support of Rep. David Valada...

Craig Regelbrugge October 15 2018

The Department of Labor recently announced a compliance and enforcement initiative targeting the landscape sector.  And, horticulture businesses – especially those using the H-2 seasonal worker visa programs – have long been disproportionately targeted.  What’s a business owner to do?  Put simply, prepare! 
 
To assist, AmericanHort is ho...

Craig Regelbrugge October 15 2018

The USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is responsible for inspecting live plants, plant cuttings, and most other propagative material imports, collectively known as “plants for planting.” Plant imports are typically inspected at APHIS plant inspection stations, located at or near many major U.S. ports.
 
During the past several years...

Craig Regelbrugge October 15 2018

Authors: Craig Regelbrugge and Laurie Flanagan

Both the House and Senate are on recess until November 13. When Congress returns for a post-election “lame duck” session, it faces a daunting to-do list. First, Congress must wrap up the outstanding fiscal 2019 federal spending bills, including a funding measure for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Departmen...

Craig Regelbrugge October 02 2018

We are beginning to hear reports that U.S. growers are having to pay very significant tariff charges on certain supplies and inputs, including items like fiberglass tree stakes.  And as of September 24, an additional $200 billion worth of goods coming from China to the U.S. became subject to a 10% tariff.  These latest tariffs include over twenty specific tariff codes related to plant...

Craig Regelbrugge October 02 2018

House and Senate negotiators failed to reach an agreement on a final farm bill before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. They continue to negotiate and are hopeful that they will reach an agreement during the lame duck session after the mid-term elections.
 
In a September 26 joint statement, Agriculture Committee Chairmen Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Rep. Michael Con...

Craig Regelbrugge October 02 2018

President Trump signed into law legislation on September 28 to fund the Departments of Labor (DOL), Defense, and Health and Human Services for fiscal 2019, and to fund many other government agencies through December 7.
 
The DOL funding bill continues the Department of Labor (DOL) H-2B regulatory relief provisions that have been included in past funding bills. Specifically, t...

Craig Regelbrugge October 02 2018

With the November elections looming, PlantPAC – the AmericanHort Political Action Committee – is mobilizing to aid the re-election of our best supporters in Congress!  PlantPAC enables leaders in horticulture to help elect and re-elect Congressional candidates who support policies that enable our industry and businesses to perform, grow, and prepare for the future. With yo...

Craig Regelbrugge September 18 2018

The landscape sector’s H-2B visa program users are being targeted for a U.S. Department of Labor-Wage & Hour Division (DOL-WHD) compliance enforcement and outreach initiative, according to an agency announcement
 

AmericanHort is in communication with the DOL-WHD on compliance ...

Craig Regelbrugge September 17 2018

Since 2003, USDA-APHIS has required offshore producers of geranium (Pelargonium) cuttings to be certified and approved after implementing a systems approach that meets or exceeds minimum requirements for facility construction and operation, sanitation, recordkeeping, and traceability. The program is required to address the risk of a federally regulated bacterial pathogen, Ralstonia...

Craig Regelbrugge September 17 2018

Last week, the Appropriations Committees filed the conference agreement on the FY 2019 Labor-HHS and Department of Defense “minibus” appropriations bill.  It also includes a continuing resolution to maintain funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal Departments through December 7, 2018.  
 
Congress will not take up an ...

Craig Regelbrugge September 04 2018

AmericanHort represented the horticulture industry at the annual meeting of the National Plant Board, held in mid-August in Cleveland, OH.  Topics covered in our formal report included domestic and international greenhouse and nursery plant certification programs, the Farm Bill, boxwood blight, Phytophthora ramorum/sudden oak death, spotted lanternfly, a European proposal to restr...

Craig Regelbrugge September 04 2018

With passing week come more reports of worksite immigration enforcement.  Are you prepared for the possibility of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement I-9 audit, or even a raid? 
 
To help ensure our members have the tools to prepare, AmericanHort partnered recently with the Western Nursery & Landscape Association to offer "I-9 Compliance and Immigrat...

Craig Regelbrugge September 04 2018

McCainProgram.jpg
Last week, the nation said goodbye to Sen. John McCain.  He was eulogized by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, and many others at ceremoni...

Craig Regelbrugge August 22 2018

AmericanHort continues to work with Congress and our colleagues in the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance to make sure our farm bill priorities are included the nation’s next five-year farm bill that is in the works.
 
Congressional staff have been meeting during August to negotiate various provisions of the farm bill. House and Senate farm bill conferees will formally m...

Craig Regelbrugge August 21 2018

Holders of greenhouse and nursery plant import permits are noticing some changes as they go through the online process to renew their permits. Most notably, the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) now requires those seeking or renewing a permit to provide botanical information for all the plant taxa they wish to import. This usually means to the genus level, althou...

Craig Regelbrugge August 07 2018

Employers turning to the H-2A and H-2B visa programs for labor relief face additional scrutiny. On July 31, the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Labor (DOL) announced a new memorandum of understanding that expands information sharing between the two agencies. Under the agreement, the DOL will refer cases of potential discrimination to the ...

Craig Regelbrugge August 07 2018

The European Commission is considering new rules that would restrict or prohibit importation of certain plants considered as “high risk” with respect to plant pests or pathogens. The proposal appears quite similar to the “Not Authorized Pending Pest Risk Analysis&rd...

Craig Regelbrugge August 07 2018

On July 25, the House Appropriations Committee passed a Fiscal 2019 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill that includes H-2B cap relief. During the bill markup, the committee adopted by voice vote a bipartisan H-2B amendment offered by Representative Andy Harris (R-MD), Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Representative Chellie Pingree...

Craig Regelbrugge July 25 2018

A federal policy change long sought by AmericanHort is advancing as USDA has announced

Craig Regelbrugge July 25 2018

On July 19, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security passed its Fiscal 2019 appropriations bill. The measure, as passed by the subcommittee, does not include any H-2B cap relief. However, during the full committee markup next week, we expect Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) and Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) to offer an H-2B returning worker amendment. AmericanHort is...

Craig Regelbrugge July 25 2018

In virtually every forum and private conversation that took place at Cultivate’18, the topic of “how is the industry doing” turned to labor and trucking. On both fronts, a difficult situation that is sapping the industry of profitability and potential.
 

At AmericanHort, it’s no surprise that labor and trucking are tops on our public policy agend...

Craig Regelbrugge July 02 2018

On June 26, a group of about 80 Members of Congress, led by Representative Harris (R-MD), Representative Bergman (R-MI), Representative Keating (D-MA) and Representative Pingree (D-ME) sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen and Labor Secretary Acosta urging them to immediately resume processing H-2B visas.
 
The Fiscal 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Law provides th...

Craig Regelbrugge July 02 2018

The last two weeks have featured not one but two efforts to pass immigration legislation in the House and two stunning legislative failures. Is there any hope of a path forward? 
 
As you may recall, a group of House Republican moderates, weary of inaction to resolve the fate of the young folks brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, sought to use a rare procedur...

Craig Regelbrugge June 19 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is wrapping up data collection for the 2017 Census of Agriculture. To stay on track for data release in February 2019, the deadline for submitting the paper questionnaire was June 15, 2018. However, growers who failed to respond by June 15 still have until the end of July to complete the Census onlin...

Craig Regelbrugge June 19 2018

On June 11, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began to notify H-2B users lucky enough to have their H-2B petitions processed under the temporary final rule that allowed for the release of an additional 15,000 H-2B visas. DHS received petitions for more than the 15,000 visas, and conducted a computer-generated random lottery on June 7.<...

Craig Regelbrugge June 19 2018

Immigration votes in the House during the summer of an election year? Strange, but looking to be true.
 
As of this reporting, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on two immigration policy bills during the week of June 18. Neither bill is certain to pass. And what happens will shape what’s next for agricultural labor reform. Here is the setup.
...

Craig Regelbrugge June 04 2018

As recently reported in Politico, the expected growth gains resulting from tax reform may be completely offset by Trump administration-imposed cuts in legal immigration. Here’s the setup: the Census Bureau recently revised its forecast for U.S. population growth downward, cutting projected immigration by 23% and births by 1.6%. A prominent economic forecasting firm sees the tax l...

Craig Regelbrugge June 04 2018

Quite unexpectedly, a potential window has opened for the House of Representatives to vote on as few as one or as many as four bills related to immigration reform during the third week of June. The looming showdown resulted from demands by the House Freedom Caucus for a vote on H.R.4760, “The Secure America’s Future Act” or “SAF Act,” before they would be willing t...

Craig Regelbrugge June 04 2018

On May 31, the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor jointly issued a final rule releasing 15,000 additional H-2B visas.
 
The rule is basically the same as the regulation that the departments issued last year when they released additional visas. It requires employers to attest that they are likely to suffer “irreparable harm,” that is, permanent and severe f...

Craig Regelbrugge May 21 2018

AmericanHort staff and several leading members recently convened on a teleconference with USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to discuss anticipated changes to the post-entry quarantine system. The system, which has been in place for many years, enables the importation of nearly 100 taxa of plants, subject to a mandatory period of monitoring inspections, usually co...

Craig Regelbrugge May 21 2018

We are one step closer to at least a little H-2B visa relief. The Department of Homeland Security sent a rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) related to H-2B visas on May 11. This OMB review process is the last stage in the process before a new regulation is released.
 
We know the rule relates to the release of additional visas authorized by the Fiscal 2018 Omni...

Craig Regelbrugge May 21 2018

The House effort to move a new Farm Bill failed on Friday, May 18, after a group of conservative Republicans rebelled and said that they would oppose the bill unless the House first passed strict border security and immigration enforcement legislation. The farm bill failed on the House Floor by a 198 to 213 vote. All House Democrats voted against the bill due to opposition to work requirement c...

Craig Regelbrugge May 08 2018

The Trump Administration has announced it is ending temporary protected status (TPS) for nearly 90,000 Hondurans, saying “no mas” for those who were granted temporary status and authorization to work in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane. More recently, Honduras has been gripped by violence, causing many to question the wisdom and practicality of forcing these indivi...

Craig Regelbrugge May 08 2018

As we’ve reported, the Fiscal 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Law provided the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, the authority to release up to an additional 69,320 H-2B visas if she determines "that the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied in fiscal year 2018 with United States workers who are willing, qualified, a...

Craig Regelbrugge April 24 2018

The omnibus spending bill that Congress passed in late March had several nuggets of good news in it for horticulture. First, the U.S. National Arboretum received a $2 million budget increase, which will advance Arboretum priorities and go a long way to relieving stress from years of flat budgets and increasing costs.
 
Secondly, the 20 year old Floriculture and Nursery Resear...

Craig Regelbrugge April 24 2018

AmericanHort and the H-2B Workforce Coalition that we co-chair continue to urge the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to immediately release the approximately 69,000 additional visas that are permitted under the recently signed Fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations bill. On April 11, the coalition sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen and Labor Secretary Acosta from over 1,...

Craig Regelbrugge April 11 2018

The government funding bill that President Trump signed into law in late March includes a measure helpful to current or prospective H-2A visa program users struggling with the housing requirement. An AmericanHort-supported amendment championed by Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA) removes a longstanding restriction on housing H-2A workers in facilities built with the help of USDA. The change...

Craig Regelbrugge April 10 2018

AmericanHort joined about 40 other diverse groups in urging the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to allow pass-through entities to aggregate multiple entities when they calculate the new deduction for pass-through businesses. The

Craig Regelbrugge April 10 2018

On March 23, President Trump signed into law a spending bill that gives the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Department of Labor, the discretion to approve visas above the 66,000 H-2B cap by potentially as many as 69,320 visas. AmericanHort and coalition partners are working furiously to encourage DHS to immediate resume H-2B processing and release additional visas auth...

Craig Regelbrugge March 27 2018

Heads up, employers of H-2A and H-2B visa holders – the Department of Labor (DOL) has published its “Annual Update to Allowable Charges for Agricultural Workers’ Meals and for Travel Subsistence Reimbursement, Including Lodging.”  The update took effect March 21, 2018. For details, please see the DOL

Craig Regelbrugge March 27 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced the long-awaited rule to restructure its regulations for importing “plants for planting” (basically, living plants and propagative material). The rule takes effect April 18.
 
Pursuant to the rule, APHIS will consolidate general requirements for importing pl...

Craig Regelbrugge March 27 2018

AmericanHort enthusiastically welcomed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is allocating almost $70 million in new funding for invasive plant pests and disease projects. The funding is intended to prevent the introduction or spread of pests that threaten U.S. agriculture and the environment and to sustain the infrastructure nece...

Craig Regelbrugge March 27 2018

The “omnibus” spending bill that Congress passed and the President signed on March 23 contains language that could, but does not yet, spell relief for employers who have been hoping for more H-2B visas. As of mid-March, the Department of Labor had certified almost 77,000 positions to be filled by a temporary H-2B visa worker, but only 33,000 visas are available.
 
...

Craig Regelbrugge March 13 2018

USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has revised the protocol for interstate movement of citrus nursery stock. This protocol, originally published in 2013, contains standards and requirements that a nursery must meet in order to move citrus nursery stock interstate from areas quarantined for citrus canker, citrus greening (huanglongbing, HLB), and/or Asian ...

Craig Regelbrugge March 13 2018

As Congress works to finalize and pass an omnibus FY2018 spending bill, immigration hardliners in the House are pushing for a vote on H.R.4760, the Securing America’s Future Act. For a refresher, the ideologically far-right bill seeks a wide array of get-tough border and interior immigration enforcement measures, as well as making mandatory E-Verify the law of the land for all employers. ...

Craig Regelbrugge March 13 2018

The fate of thousands of seasonal businesses is down to the wire this week. Congress is in final negotiations on a fiscal 2018 spending bill, which offers perhaps the last and best opportunity for H-2B visa program cap relief. AmericanHort and our H-2B Workforce Coalition allies continue to urge Congress to include meaningful cap relief in the spending bill. A new spending bill must be signed i...

Craig Regelbrugge February 27 2018

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), federal agencies must consult with the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively referred to as the Services) about the impact of potential federal government actions on endangered species or their habitat. On February 14, the Center for Biological Divers...

Craig Regelbrugge February 27 2018

On February 20, the Department of Labor began sending approved H-2B labor certifications to employers. To date, DOL approved labor certifications for 42,802 workers. Now that employers, their agents, or attorneys have likely sent most of these labor certifications to the Department of Homeland Security for review and the visa petitioning process, we expect that the 33,000 cap for the second hal...

Craig Regelbrugge February 13 2018

AmericanHort is working to clarify and hopefully calm a few emerging plant quarantine challenges as spring draws near.
 
Boxwood Blight – as reported previously, Tennessee has joined Pennsylvania in establishing a boxwood blight quarantine as concerns about the disease threat remain high. The good news is that like Pennsylvania, Tennessee mostly adheres...

Craig Regelbrugge February 13 2018

This past Monday, the U.S. Senate began debating legislation to address the status of perhaps nearly two million individuals brought to this country by their parents, many of whom received relief from the threat of deportation under President Obama’s DACA program. The debate started with an “empty-shell” bill, fulfilling a promise that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ma...

Craig Regelbrugge January 30 2018

At a farm visit in Pennsylvania, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled his department’s 2018 Farm Bill & Legislative Principles. While the principles are very high-level, they include references to key policy and investments in research, pest prevention,...

Craig Regelbrugge January 30 2018

On January 22, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision ruled that challenges to EPA’s 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule should have been brought in district courts, not the federal appellate courts. As a result, the nationwide stay issued by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that prevented the WOTUS rule from being implemented is no longer in effect. 
&n...

Craig Regelbrugge January 30 2018

The federal “ship of state” is sailing under yet another temporary spending measure through February 8. The agreement to re-open the government after a 3-day shutdown came about after Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) agreed to a 17-day stop gap funding measure in exchange for an agreement by Senator McConnell that the Senate will consider le...

Craig Regelbrugge January 16 2018

The federal government’s fiscal year began on October 1, 2017, but Congress has yet to pass a spending bill to fund government for the entire fiscal year. Since October 1, Congress has passed a series of short-term measures, the latest of which is set to expire on January 19.

 

Lawmakers continue to draft what they hope will be just one more short-term temporar...

Craig Regelbrugge January 16 2018

Amidst a series of bipartisan White House-convened meetings to pursue a deal on border security and a solution for the roughly 800,000 young people brought to the U.S. as minors and protected from deportation under President Obama’s so-called DACA program came a disparaging comment from President Trump. He questioned aloud why America would want immigrants from some less-fortunate nations...

Craig Regelbrugge January 03 2018

The USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has published a revised list of

Craig Regelbrugge January 03 2018

The Tree Care Industry Association, which administers the ANSI A300 Tree, Shrub, and Other Woody Plant Management – Standard Practices, has notified AmericanHort of the public review period for the following portions of the A300 Standard:
 

  • Part 2 - Soil Management: a. Modification, b. Fertilization, and c. Drainage;
  • Part 7 - Integrated Veg...

Craig Regelbrugge January 03 2018

Congress adjourned on December 21 after passing another short-term measure to fund the government, this time through January 19. This “clean” funding measure did not include H-2B cap relief or address other policy issues, but we continue to press Congress to include cap relief in the funding bill it plans to negotiate between now and January 19.
 
The need for cap...

Craig Regelbrugge December 19 2017

The EPA announced on December 14 that by September 30, 2018, the end of the current federal fiscal year, it plans to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) to solicit public input on proposed revisions to the Worker Protection Standard requirements for minimum ages, designated representatives, and application exclusion zones. EPA also plans to issue an NOPR related to the minimum age in...

Craig Regelbrugge December 19 2017

Every year, the administrator of the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Kevin Shea, convenes a series of commodity sector meetings. APHIS has an enormous impact on our industry, as the agency is responsible for safeguarding American plant resources and for facilitating trade in agricultural and horticultural commodities. Invited industry representatives meet with APHIS leadershi...

Craig Regelbrugge December 05 2017

AmericanHort continues to urge Congress to pass immediate H-2B cap relief. We are concerned that the first-half fiscal year cap could be reached later this month. As of November 28, the Department of Homeland Security had received petitions for over 22,000 H-2B workers for the first half of fiscal 2018. Each half of the fiscal year is capped at 33,000 H-2B visas.
 
While we c...

Craig Regelbrugge November 21 2017

On November 16, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies) released a proposed rule to change the effective date of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The proposed rule would delay the effective date of the regulation for two years. The delay gives the agencies additional time to finalize a rule to rescind the Obama-era regulation an...

Craig Regelbrugge November 21 2017

Dr. Steve Bronars, an economist who advises AmericanHort and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, has analyzed the just-released USDA Farm Labor Survey results and has provided us with a chart of the expected 2018 Adverse Effect Wage Rates for those using the H-2A visa program. These ne...

Craig Regelbrugge November 21 2017

Congress headed home for the Thanksgiving holiday, with the House having passed its version of tax reform on November 16. The House bill, which passed on a party-line 227-205 vote, moved the process one step closer to fruition.
 
In addition, the Senate Finance Committee passed their draft proposal by 14-12 along party lines, setting the stage for a potentially close floor vo...

Craig Regelbrugge November 06 2017

The latest immigration policy showdown is unfolding this week. The Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce as early as November 6 whether or not it will extend “temporary protected status” (TPS) for over 300,000 individuals who fled natural disasters or human conflict in El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and Nicaragua. The Central American TPS designations have been in p...

Craig Regelbrugge November 06 2017

On October 25, the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R.4092, the Agricultural Guest Worker Act (AG Act), on a close 17-16 vote. A separate bill called the Legal Workforce Act was also approved. It will mandate that all employers use the E-Verify program within three years to electronically verify work eligibility at the time of hire.
 
The Committee’s action was just...

Craig Regelbrugge November 06 2017

AmericanHort continues to push for H-2B cap relief this year. As a co-chair of the H-2B Workforce Coalition, we participated in a fly-in on November 2. More than 200 H-2B users visited with their lawmakers on Capitol Hill urging immediate H-2B cap relief through the annual federal spending process as well as permanent H-2B reform.
 
On the same day, in conjunction with our st...

Craig Regelbrugge October 24 2017

Gregory IbachSeveral political appointees to serve in key Agriculture Department posts have advanced in the process. For horticulture, the most important is Undersecretary for Marketing and Regul...

Craig Regelbrugge October 24 2017

In H-2B news, AmericanHort continues to push for H-2B cap relief as part of a year-end appropriations bill or any other relevant legislation. A lobbying day is planned for November 2. Also, the Cato Institute is doing an H-2B economic study and needs user input!  Details are below.
 
The Senate Appropriations Committee could take up its version of the fiscal 2018 Departm...

Craig Regelbrugge October 24 2017

As of our publishing deadline, the House Judiciary Committee’s consideration of Representative Lamar Smith’s mandatory E-Verify bill (H.R.3711) and Chairman Goodlatte’s Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act, not yet formally introduced) that was postponed from two weeks ago was rescheduled to take place on Tuesday, October 24.
 
As you may recall, the AG Act ...

Craig Regelbrugge October 10 2017

AmericanHort is very pleased to announce that the offshore certification pilot program for vegetative cuttings was officially launched October 1. The pilot, which has been several years in the making, involves offshore production locations managed by four companies in six Latin American countries. Facilities must meet or exceed minimum standards for facility design and maintenance, production, ...

Craig Regelbrugge October 10 2017

In the wake of repeated GOP failures to repeal the Affordable Care Act, conversations are shifting to more limited and bipartisan measures. On October 4, Representative Jim Renacci (R-OH), Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Representative Jim Costa (D-CA) and Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH) reintroduced H.R. 3956, the “Simplifying Technical Aspects R...

Craig Regelbrugge October 10 2017

On Monday, October 2, the House Judiciary Committee announced that it would consider two bills on Wednesday – the Legal Workforce Act and the Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act). The former would make the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system mandatory for all employers over a period of three years; the latter would transition the existing H-2A agricultural work...

Craig Regelbrugge September 25 2017

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has big hopes and plans to move an agenda that advances agriculture and horticulture and contributes to rural opportunity and prosperity. Yet so far, of the 13 or so USDA political appointees requiring Senate confirmation, only Perdue himself is in place. It’s tough to move dreams and plans forward with big gaps in the team!
 
American...

Craig Regelbrugge September 25 2017

On September 15, the House passed a $1.2 trillion fiscal year 2018 spending package, laying down a marker ahead of negotiations with the Senate and White House over a final spending deal in December. The 12-bill package (H.R. 3354) passed by a vote of 211-198. The bill continues H-2B regulatory reforms but doe...

Craig Regelbrugge September 25 2017

For months, House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has hinted at moving an agricultural labor reform bill through his committee. The most recent rumor hinted at a bill being introduced and possibly even considered this week (September 25), but committee staff have suggested further delay. When it is introduced, we expect it will be “marked up” (the committee process of consid...

Craig Regelbrugge September 12 2017

We’ve all long known that trees make our cities and communities more liveable. A new study puts numbers to the benefits of urban trees in the world’s largest cities. The study, led by Dr. Theodore Endreny of the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in Syracuse, examined the ecosystem service benefits provided by trees in megacities ...

Craig Regelbrugge September 12 2017

The first week back from the August recess was a very busy week in Congress and a crucial one in our fight to preserve the H-2B program. On September 7, the Senate passed a Hurricane Harvey relief package that also raises the debt ceiling and continues existing government funding through December 8. Despite more than a little drama after President Trump cut a 3-month deal with the Democrats rat...

Craig Regelbrugge August 28 2017

EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently extended by 30 days the comment period on its proposed rule to rescind the 2015 Clean Water Rule and replace it with a recodification of the text that existed prior to 2015. Comments on the proposal are now due on September 27.
 
According to EPA and the Corps, this proposed rule is intended to provide certainty during an...

Craig Regelbrugge August 28 2017

Congress returns to Washington on September 5 and will face a daunting agenda that includes must-do’s of funding the federal government for the new fiscal year that begins October 1 and increasing the federal debt ceiling. There are also want-to-do’s, with tax reform leading the list.
 
These coming debates could bring other controversial issues to the fore. One e...

Craig Regelbrugge August 15 2017

The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) maintains voluntary industry consensus standards governing tree, shrub, and other woody plant management practices. The so-called A300 standard is developed by an accredited standards developing committee of which AmericanHort is a participating member. The A300 standard is organized into 10 sections, several of which are under review and potential revi...

Craig Regelbrugge August 15 2017

Congress is on recess through Labor Day, and President Trump is on a working vacation. Just 12 short days after Congress returns in September, the debt ceiling must be raised or the U.S. will default on its financial obligations. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has written Congress to say it is essential to raise the ceiling because the Treasury Department has already been using austerity meas...

Craig Regelbrugge July 31 2017

Following last week’s Senate health care failure, there seems to be a renewed focus by some lawmakers on targeted fixes to the ACA. We expect the Simplifying Technical Aspects of Seasonality (STARS) Act, which AmericanHort has supported in past Congresses, to be re-introduced shortly after the August recess.
 
Current law includes conflicting definitions of “seaso...

Craig Regelbrugge July 31 2017

The Department of Labor (DOL) is seeking public comment regarding its regulations defining and delimiting exemptions from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements for certain executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees - better known as the “white collar exemptions.” 
 
As you may recall, t...

Craig Regelbrugge July 31 2017

Just about every decision Congress makes results in someone winning and someone else losing. With Congress expected to soon pivot to some form of tax overhaul, what policies and provisions are most important to horticulture? 
 
This will be the topic of the day on August 9 as AmericanHort offers two webinars to e...

Craig Regelbrugge July 31 2017

AmericanHort is proud to announce the addition of Tal Coley as the new Director of Government Affairs. Some of you were able to meet...

Craig Regelbrugge July 31 2017

Final details are coming together for the Impact Washington advocacy summit September 12 and 13 in the Nation’s Capital. Now’s the time to register if you have not done so yet.
 

Craig Regelbrugge July 31 2017

July wound up a bit on the wild side in Washington. In the span of a week, President Trump announced via Twitter that transgendered individuals would no longer be allowed to serve in the military. The Senate tried to advance several versions of the Affordable Care Act repeal. All versions failed, with the last ditch “skinny repeal” going down 49-51. Senator John McCain cast the deci...

Craig Regelbrugge July 20 2017

On July 19, 2017, the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor published a final rule increasing the numerical limit (“cap”) on H-2B nonimmigrant visas by up to 15,000 additional visas throu...

Craig Regelbrugge July 20 2017

Three items of very good news have emerged from the House Appropriations Committee over the past several days.  First, the Committee acted to increase funding for the Agricultural Research Service’ (ARS) Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI) by $500,000!  You may recall that the Trump Administration proposed to eliminate the program. FNRI is a unique research partn...

Craig Regelbrugge July 20 2017

AmericanHort has received field reports suggesting an uptick in I-9 audits in our industry, in northeast Ohio, Tennessee, and perhaps elsewhere.  Now would be a good time to double-check that your practices are in order. 

In one audit, the Department of Labor (DOL) investigator asserted that inside salespeople fell outside the definition of agriculture and were therefor...

Craig Regelbrugge July 20 2017

The nursery crop insurance program has been much cussed and discussed in recent years. Most consider the program to be challenging and burdensome, with much of the burden recurring year after year regardless of whether you have a claim.  

There is an effort underway to change that.  It started in Florida, which isn’t surprising since most buy-up coverage happens i...

Craig Regelbrugge July 03 2017

On June 27, Senate leaders announced that they would delay a vote on a Republican health care bill until after the July 4 recess. The bill, drafted in secret by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, faced opposition from at least five Republican Senators. After the decision to delay the vote was announced, three more Republican Senators released a joint statement opposing the bill. Moderate R...

Craig Regelbrugge July 03 2017

Since our last edition of Washington Impact, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson announced that Secretary John Kelly will soon expand the number of H-2B visas available this fiscal year, as is authorized under the fiscal 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act. DHS spokesperson David Lapan qualified the statement, however, by stating that Secretary Kelly would make a smal...

Craig Regelbrugge July 03 2017

On June 29, the House of Representatives passed two immigration enforcement bills. One, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, seeks to broaden the types of federal support that localities could lose for failing to cooperate fully with federal immigration officials. The bill had mixed reviews among local law enforcement officials; it was opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police, and a letter by 40...

Craig Regelbrugge July 03 2017

On June 27, EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule to rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule, also known as the WOTUS Rule. The agencies also proposed to re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to 2015 defining "waters of the United States." According to EPA and the Corps, this proposed rule is intended to provide certainty during a...

Craig Regelbrugge July 03 2017

Just a heads-up that registration is now open for the Impact Washington advocacy leaders’ summit scheduled for September 12 and 13 in Washington, D.C. If you are thinking about the impact of issues like tax reform, the workforce, E-Verify, and the next farm bill, you aren’t alone... we are, too!  The event is shaping up to be well-timed for you to have a direct impact as Congre...

Craig Regelbrugge June 20 2017

The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation offers a “nursery policy” in all 50 states. However, the nursery crop insurance system has always been complicated and, well, at least a little dysfunctional. Over the years, we’ve had several industry leaders testify before Congress on problems with the program, yet little if anything has changed for the better.
 
Ther...

Craig Regelbrugge June 20 2017

The Department of Homeland Security has rescinded one Obama-era executive action granting relief from deportation to certain individuals, while it has left a second, affecting the so-called DREAMers, intact.
 
On June 15, Secretary John F. Kelly signed a memorandum rescinding the November 20, 2014 memorandum that created the program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Ame...

Craig Regelbrugge June 20 2017

USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was scheduled to publish a Federal Register notice on June 19 announcing additions to its list of plants it considers to be “not authorized pending pest risk analysis” (NAPPRA). Plants listed as NAPPRA may be restricted from entry because they are believed to be hosts of quarantine pests or because they are considered...

Craig Regelbrugge June 20 2017

Offshore-produced plant cuttings of diverse varieties of annuals and perennials have become an important component of the greenhouse and nursery industry supply chain. Over one billion unrooted cuttings are imported each year from farms primarily in Latin America and Africa. They are rooted and finished in growing operations across the country.
 
Unrooted cuttings are highly ...

Craig Regelbrugge June 06 2017

Nearly a month has passed since President Trump signed legislation that could address the H-2B cap. Sadly, the Secretary of Homeland Security has not yet exercised its new temporary authority to approve additional H-2B visas this year despite an intensive lobbying effort from the H-2B Workforce Coalition and users in industries such as landscaping, resorts, fairs and carnivals, and seafood proc...

Craig Regelbrugge June 06 2017

President Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year is out and has created a stir, especially regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture where significant cuts are proposed. Trump has proposed $4.7 billion less for FY2018 for all of USDA, which is a 21% reduction as compared with FY2017. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), in particular, was singled out with a pledge to refo...

Craig Regelbrugge June 06 2017

AmericanHort is actively assisting affected plant breeders, distributors, growers, and retailers as the genetically modified petunia regulatory response continues. Since our last update, there have been several changes to the list of petunias confirmed or suspected of being genetically engineered and the...

Craig Regelbrugge May 23 2017

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is considering changing or removing import restrictions on chrysanthemum plants for planting. Chrysanthemums are currently restricted from importation because of Puccinia horiana, also known as chrysanthemum white rust (CWR).
 
The first step in the process has been to analyze which pests might enter the...

Craig Regelbrugge May 23 2017

We recently posted in our “In Your Corner” blog about garden enthusiasts up in arms over the allegation that Home Depot is selling Asclepias spp., milkweeds, bearing a label indicating that the plants have been treated with a neonicotinoid. Not good!

Of course, many milkweed specie...

Craig Regelbrugge May 23 2017

AmericanHort continues to urge the Department of Homeland Security to immediately implement H-2B cap relief authorized in the fiscal 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act that President Trump signed into law on May 5. The new law gives the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, the authority to approve additional H-2B visas if he determines that there is an ...

Craig Regelbrugge May 23 2017

This week, Congress receives President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal 2018, which begins October 1. The budget blueprint is expected to propose $1.7 trillion in cuts to various social programs, including $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid and $274 billion in cuts to means-tested programs, which includes food stamps.
 
Tied to the budget blueprint, fiscal conser...

Craig Regelbrugge May 23 2017

The regulatory and industry response continues in the wake of the recent discovery that petunia varieties meeting the technical definition of “genetically engineered” (GE) have been commercialized and sold in European and North American markets without required government authorization.
 
Immediately after the first breeders and distributors of the implicated vari...

Craig Regelbrugge May 09 2017

Two immigration bills have just been introduced in the Senate. The first, S.1040, was introduced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI). A House companion bill was introduced by Representative Ken Buck (R-CO). With strong backing of the libertarian Cato Institute, the bills would establish a new “state-based visa” pilot program that would complement existing but limited federal visa programs...

Craig Regelbrugge May 09 2017

For those monitoring the H-2B program, recent passage of a federal spending bill is a case of “one important step forward, but still more to go.”  The bipartisan agreement on a bill to fund the federal government through September 30, 2017 may enable limited H-2B program cap relief but only if the Trump Administration acts to do so.
 
The bill provides the Se...

Craig Regelbrugge May 09 2017

On April 25, President Donald Trump convened a White House round table discussion with 14 farmers. The President also issued a new executive order on agriculture and rural prosperity, establishing a federal task force led by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to identify policy, regulatory, and legislative measures to bolster the agricultural sector. AmericanHort chairman-elect Tom Demaline, Wi...

Craig Regelbrugge May 02 2017

IMG_3267-(1).JPGOn the first day Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was in office, AmericanHort -- and the entire green industry -- had a seat at the Farmer’s Roundtable hosted by the White House. That seat was occupied by none other than i...

Craig Regelbrugge April 25 2017

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) will be the opening conference speaker at the Impact Washington advocacy leaders’ summit hosted by AmericanHort in our Nation’s Capital on September 11 – 13. Tillis will address our group bright and early on Tuesday, September 12. 
 
Building on a successful private industry career, Tillis was elected to the Nort...

Craig Regelbrugge April 25 2017

On April 25, President Donald Trump held a “farmers’ roundtable” in the West Wing of the White House. Roughly a dozen producers were invited, representing diverse geographies and industries. We were most fortunate to have horticulture at the table, the seat capably filled by Tom Demaline, president and CEO of Willoway Nurseries in Avon, OH and incoming Chairman of the Board of...

Craig Regelbrugge April 25 2017

The Employment and Training Administration of the Department of Labor has published a Federal Register notice specifying the following:  (1) The allowable charges for 2017 that employers seeking H-2A workers in occupations other than range herding may charge their workers when the employer provides ...

Craig Regelbrugge April 25 2017

Dozens of green industry employers left their businesses at peak season to come to Washington on April 26 for a day of lobbying Congress to fix the H-2B cap. They were joined by others from the resort and hospitality, seafood, forestry, and other affected industries. AmericanHort continues to urge Congress to include H-2B cap relief in a spending package for the remainder of fiscal year 2017. &...

Craig Regelbrugge April 11 2017

Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue is expected to be confirmed by the Senate on April 24, the day the Senate returns from its two-week recess. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved his nomination on March 30. He received the support of all committee members, except New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Perdue has stated trade and agricultural labor/immigration reform as two high priorities...

Craig Regelbrugge April 11 2017

AmericanHort continues to be very active on Capitol Hill promoting H-2B cap relief.  We are pushing for short-term cap relief through the annual spending process, as well as permanent relief through more comprehensive reform legislation. Bills that AmericanHort supports have now been introduced in both the House and Senate. We are also supporting an April 26 “fly-in” to push fo...

Craig Regelbrugge April 11 2017

Congress has left Washington for a two-week spring recess. And they’ve left behind incredible uncertainty in the wake of the recent failure of House Republicans to advance a health care alternative and the Senate’s move to allow a simple majority to confirm Supreme Court justices (and the subsequent confirmation of Justice Gorsuch).
 
Many have pronounced the heal...

Craig Regelbrugge March 28 2017

By Craig Regelbrugge & Davi Bowen

As the Trump administration continues to flesh out its budget and program priorities for the rest of this fiscal year and beyond, goals such as double-digit increases in defense spending are sure to mean cuts in a wide array of discretionary spending. One early victim appears to be the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NA...

Craig Regelbrugge March 28 2017

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that the 33,000 H-2B cap for the second half of fiscal 2017 was reached on March 13. AmericanHort is urging Congress to re-instate the H-2B returning worker exemption or pass some other form of cap relief. We truly appreciate the efforts of all of our members and state association partners who have taken the time to reach out directly to t...

Craig Regelbrugge March 28 2017

At long last, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee held a hearing on March 23 on the nomination of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as Secretary of Agriculture. In sharp contrast to many of the recent Trump cabinet confirmation hearings, this one was “low-drama.” Perdue spoke at length about his background growing up on a dairy and row crop farm ...

Craig Regelbrugge March 14 2017

The U. S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is making more than $60 million in grants available to support farmers growing fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops, also known as specialty crops. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) grants are allocated to U.S. states and territories for projects that help support the success of spec...

Craig Regelbrugge March 14 2017

AmericanHort continues to lobby for H-2B reform, especially H-2B cap relief. Your help is urgently needed, so please read on. We are concerned that the 33,000 visa cap for the second half of fiscal year 2017 could be reached any day now. We hope that Congress will include the H-2B returning worker exemption or other cap relief as part of an appropriations package for the remainder of fiscal yea...

Craig Regelbrugge March 14 2017

AmericanHort is closely monitoring the health care debate to assess the potential impacts for our members. On March 6, 2017, House Republican leaders introduced legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The legislation, entitled the American Health Care Act (AHCA), leaves in place many ACA components but does make changes to the individual and employer manda...

Craig Regelbrugge February 28 2017

On February 16, the House Agriculture Committee passed two bills by voice vote, H.R.1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act (PRIA), and H.R.953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017. These bills have important implications for pest management in horticulture.
 
H.R.1029 would reauthorize PRIA for 7 years. PRIA, which was first passed in 2003 and has been ...

Craig Regelbrugge February 28 2017

On February 17, the Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to be EPA Administrator by a vote of 52 to 46. He was sworn in shortly after the vote. When addressing EPA employees, he stressed that the U.S. can support the energy sector and American jobs while also protecting the environment.
 
 “I think our nation has done better than any nation in the world at making sure we ...

Craig Regelbrugge February 28 2017

On February 20, Homeland Security Secretary Kelly released implementation guidance regarding immigration enforcement priorities. Secretary Kelly’s guidance memo implements the specifics of executive orders signed by President Trump...

Craig Regelbrugge February 14 2017

On February 7, Representative Bob Gibbs (R-OH) introduced the “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act” (H.R.953) with bipartisan support. The legislation would correct a 2009 court decision that requires duplicative and unnecessary National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for aquatic pesticides that have already been regulated, tested, and approved by the Environment...

Craig Regelbrugge February 14 2017

As we went to press, breaking news reported Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions rounding up at least 150 people in communities in southern California, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and perhaps elsewhere. In most cases, it appears that the targets were criminal aliens or individuals who had ignored a final order of deportation. However, reports suggested that others unfortunate enough ...

Craig Regelbrugge February 14 2017

AmericanHort member Frisella Nursery recently hosted a meeting with scores of fellowlandscape company owners from across Missouri, along with their suppliers, to discussthe urgent H-2B program crisis with the offices of Senator Roy Blunt and Senator ClaireMcCaskill and Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer.

Craig Regelbrugge January 31 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced four special grants totaling more than $13.6 million to combat a scourge on the nation’s citrus industry, citrus greening disease, or Huanglongbing (HLB). The funding came through NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
&n...

Craig Regelbrugge January 31 2017

In view of the nature of many horticultural businesses – family owned, significant resources in land and building assets, and significant business succession and transition challenges – AmericanHort supports full repeal of the estate, or death, tax. With tax reform a distinct possibility in the new Congress, on January 24 AmericanHort and our advocacy partner the National Christmas ...

Craig Regelbrugge January 31 2017

President Donald J. Trump was sworn in on January 20, and has wasted little time setting out to fulfill campaign pledges using the same tools for which President Obama was widely criticized – executive orders and actions.
 
First up was a “regulator...

Craig Regelbrugge January 17 2017

Bipartisan legislation introduced in both the Senate and House on January 12 would provide temporary protection for some undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the BRIDGE Act, which would protect young immigrants from deportation and provide work authorization for those who have received or are eligible...

Craig Regelbrugge January 17 2017

On January 4, the EPA released its final rule regarding the certification and training of applicators of restricted use pesticides (RUPs). According to the EPA, the final rule will improve the competency of certified applicators of RUPs, increase protection for noncertified applicators using RUPs under the direct supervision of a certified applicator through enhanced pesticide safety training a...

Craig Regelbrugge January 17 2017

The first week of 2017 was a good week for healthy plants and a healthy horticultural marketplace. On January 5, the administrator of USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Kevin Shea hosted his annual meeting involving representatives of our industry and his management team. AmericanHort staff and members who attended or joined by conference included Mike Klopmeyer (...

Craig Regelbrugge January 17 2017

As feared, Congress failed in December to renew the H-2B program’s “returning worker exemption.” And as feared, the cap has been hit for the first half of the federal fiscal year, which runs through March 31. This means some landscape industry employers may not get the peak season workers they depend on.
 
On January 12, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Se...

Craig Regelbrugge January 03 2017

Contributing Author: Jill Calabro, PhD
 
Regulatory relief is near the top of Congress’ expected 2017 agenda. AmericanHort is collaborating with the American Farm Bureau and other organizations with similar regulatory relief interests. In Congress, the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) is likely to be the centerpiece of the relief effort.
&...

Craig Regelbrugge January 03 2017

Happy New Year! 2017 is here and soon the 115th Congress and a new Administration will be, too. This means a sea of changes in players and policy priorities, posing opportunities and also a few concerns for horticulture industry businesses. So what to expect? 
 
The Players…
 
President-elect Trump and his transition ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 19 2016

USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have announced the finalization of a revised greenhouse-
grown plant certification program. The United States‒Canada Greenhouse-Grown Plant Certification Program (GCP) is a bilateral export certification program for greenhouse-grown plants shipped between Canada and the continental ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 19 2016

The “adverse effect wage rate,” or AEWR, is typically the applicable minimum wage that must be paid to temporary and seasonal agricultural workers employed through the H-2A foreign worker program. The AEWR wage must also be paid to any U.S. worker considered to be in “corresponding employment,” currently interpreted by the Department of Labor to mean the worker performs ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 19 2016

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under President Obama has been called the most partisan ever. Does the claim hold up under scrutiny? Well, a recent report co-produced by the business-oriented Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, with which AmericanHort collaborates, suggests so. In fact, the ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 19 2016

On December 13, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is allocating nearly $58 million under Section 10007 of the 2014 Farm Bill to support 513 projects with partners in 5...

Craig Regelbrugge December 19 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition process is in full swing. And as we’ve reported previously, key appointees at the departments of Justice, Labor, Agriculture, and State will have major influence on immigration enforcement and visa program policy.

AmericanHort is a leader in the effort to secure sensible immigration reforms to ensure a stable and legal workfor...

Craig Regelbrugge December 19 2016

President Obama has signed into law a temporary spending bill to fund the federal government through April 28. Despite a massive effort by our industry and others in the H-2B Workforce Coalition, Congress did not reinstate the H-2B returning worker exemption. The exemption expired on October 1, the start of fiscal 2017.

The spending bill will extend through April 28 with several ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 05 2016

Earlier this year, USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service initiated a periodic review of the federal domestic quarantine designed to prevent the movement of imported fire ant via nursery plants and other means of accidental spread. AmericanHort and our state association grassroots partners have taken the position that the quarantine benefits the industry by ensuring a consist...

Craig Regelbrugge December 05 2016

In early November, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency hosted the annual meeting of the North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO). The meeting offered AmericanHort the opportunity to:
 

  • Ensure that the American horticultural industry was represented in important trilateral discussions that took place on quarantines, trade, invasive plants, and other issues;
Craig Regelbrugge December 05 2016

On November 22, a U.S. District Court judge issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) new overtime rule, which was slated to go into effect on December 1. The court acted out of concern that the overtime rule may violate the Administrative Procedures Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which exempts employees from overtime ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 05 2016

Congress is crafting legislation to fund the federal government from December 9 through at least the end of March and possibly into May. Under a continuing resolution (CR), the H-2B regulatory relief now in place will be extended. However, the returning worker exemption expired on October 1, 2016. We are pushing lawmakers to reinstate the exemption in the continuing resolution. It is an uphill ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 02 2016

As we say goodbye to the tumulous election season and prepare to ring in 2017 with newly elected leaders at all levels of government, I want to share with you AmericanHort’s advocacy and research efforts on behalf of the industry.
 
Our Reputation and Focus
We have a lot to say and do. Our industry creates jobs and careers, it supports local econ...

Craig Regelbrugge November 14 2016

The Department of Labor’s changes to the minimum salary threshold for the executive, administrative, and professional (white collar) exemption from overtime is scheduled to take effect December 1. Because December 1 falls during a pay period, affected employers are reminded that strategies employed to comply with the change need to be implemented for that pay period.
 
...

Craig Regelbrugge November 14 2016

The national election dust has mostly settled. Republicans held control of the Senate, against difficult math, and the House of Representatives, as expected. When the last few races are called, and a runoff is held in the Louisiana Senate race, the 115th Congress GOP will have lost a handful of swing districts in the House, and hold 52 seats in the Senate vs. 54 in the current sessio...

Craig Regelbrugge November 14 2016

The votes are counted, the dust has begun to settle, and it was a “change election” the likes of which we have not seen in a long, long time. And the pollsters will be cleaning egg off their faces for weeks to come. In some ways, the ending of this protracted, bitter campaign season is a bit like the dog that chased, then with some surprise, caught the car. Attention now turns to pr...

Craig Regelbrugge October 28 2016

We live in anxious times, with disenchantment, frustration, even anger directed at politicians and institutions alike. Such emotions may be rooted in the sense that individuals and institutions are failing us, that the system is broken, or even “rigged” intentionally, that no one can be trusted and everyone in it is there for their own gain.
 
With today’s n...

Craig Regelbrugge October 28 2016

We have been hearing that EPA plans to release its final acute bee mitigation proposal by the end of the year. This proposal is on the agenda for the November 1 meeting of EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC). During this federal advisory committee meeting, EPA will also discuss its risk assessment schedule for neonicotinoid insecticides.
 
In addition, the...

Craig Regelbrugge October 28 2016

AmericanHor...

Craig Regelbrugge October 28 2016

The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau has announced fee increases for virtually all of its visa and immigration benefit-related applications. The fee increases, averaging 21 percent across the board, were published on October 24, and take effect 60 days later.
 
For horticulture, the biggest impact is with I-129 Petition ...

Craig Regelbrugge October 13 2016

As October arrived, The Nature Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced the launch of Habitat Network, a free online citizen science platform that invites people to map their outdoor space, share it with others, and learn more about supporting wildlife habitat and other natural functions in cities and town across the country.

...

Craig Regelbrugge October 03 2016

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has proposed new regulations on valuation discounts which would make broad changes to Internal Revenue Code Section 2704. Guidance from our advocacy partners at the Small ...

Craig Regelbrugge October 03 2016

On Wednesday, September 28, the House and Senate passed a short-term funding measure to fund the federal government through December 9, after lawmakers reached an agreement to separately address funding for...

Craig Regelbrugge September 15 2016

On September 13, the Washington DC-based Center for Global Development unveiled a new blueprint for

Craig Regelbrugge September 15 2016

With growing concern over the looming December 1 effective date for the U.S. Department of Labor’s overtime rule, AmericanHort and grassroots allies joined on

Craig Regelbrugge September 15 2016

AmericanHort and grassroots partners have generated several hundred messages to Congress urging renewal of the “H-2B returning worker exemption” which is set to expire Septembe...

Craig Regelbrugge September 15 2016

The Senate is working to finalize the details of a stopgap spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, to keep the government funded through December 9. Without...

Craig Regelbrugge September 01 2016

Congress returns just after Labor Day for its last few weeks of legislative business before the elections. The main focus will be on passing a short-term spending fix to keep the government running until Congres...

Craig Regelbrugge August 12 2016

Horticultural employers across America report that it’s tougher than ever to recruit, train, and retain a qualified and dedicated workforce. This is true for both entry-level laborers and supervisory or technical staff.
 
We can rant about many contributing factors: the lack of a well-developed work ethic in many young people; a too-generous social safety net that make ...

Craig Regelbrugge August 12 2016

Former U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette passed away August 3 at age 62 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. LaTourette represented Ohio's 14th Congressional District from 1995 to 2013. LaTourette’s district included the major Lake County nursery production area, and LaTourette was a quiet supporter of our industry’s legislative goals.
 
Earlier this summer, on Jun...

Craig Regelbrugge August 12 2016

As the batt...

Craig Regelbrugge August 12 2016

As reported here previously, the U.S. government is moving to implement a streamlined system for imports, where all data required to gain admissibility for imports will be submitted electronically through a “single window.” The “single window” will be Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). The data submissions entered into ACE will ...

Craig Regelbrugge August 12 2016

AmericanHort was an invited speaker and participant at the annual meeting of the National Plant Board, an organization of the state plant regulatory officials who license and regulate plant growers and retailers. It’s a great opportunity to represent the horticulture industry, sustain relationships, and problem-solve on plant health, quarantine, and shipping issues. State officials as wel...

Craig Regelbrugge August 12 2016

iStock_33294584_MEDIUM.jpg
Old plant pest quarantines die hard, and such is truly the case for Japanese beetle. This invasive and destructive insect pest first turned up in New Je...

Craig Regelbrugge February 11 2016

USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is moving to enforce a plant import requirement with respect to how plant taxa are listed on phytosanitary certificates (PC). The requirement itself is not new; it dates back to 2008. Yet, it has not been routinely enforced. Now, however, new automated processes are being implemented at the various APHIS plant inspection stations, and the ...

Craig Regelbrugge February 11 2016

On February 11, USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a final rule authorizing the importation of Phalaenopsis spp. orchids from China in approved growing media. The action authorizes such importations only into the continental United States, and only if the plants are produced under the “...

Craig Regelbrugge February 11 2016

USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are about to finalize an overhaul of the U.S.-Canada Greenhouse Certification Program (GCP).

To set the stage, the GCP was launched in 1996 to facilitate bilateral trade in certain “low-pest-risk” greenhouse crops. Approved participating operations could ship between the two coun...

Craig Regelbrugge February 11 2016

Last week, the Obama administration submitted its eighth and final annual federal agency budget request to Congress. This official act begins the federal appropriations process for the 2017 fiscal year that starts October 1. But, Congress has already declared the Obama spending blueprint “dead on arrival.” In fact, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has declined to s...

Craig Regelbrugge January 29 2016

In mid-January, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed S. 659, the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2015. During the mark-up, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Tom Carper (D-DE) offered an amendment to clarify that Clean Water Act permits are not needed for certain pesticide applications. The amendment was adopted by a 12-8 vote. The bill later passed by the com...

Craig Regelbrugge January 29 2016

The suspense over when the Supreme Court will hear the challenge to President Obama’s executive actions relating to deferred deportation for certain unauthorized immigrants now shifts to suspense over what the Court’s decision will be. The Supreme Court will take up the case during this term, and is expected to yield a decision by June.

The plaintiffs make the case that the Admini...

Craig Regelbrugge January 14 2016

On December 18, President Obama signed into law an omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2016 that included important H-2B relief. The bill exempts returning workers from the program’s 66,000 cap, ensuring that our members will not be shut out of the program this spring. The new law also addresses some of the most problematic provisions of the 2015 H-2B regulations, such as the three-quarters g...

Craig Regelbrugge December 31 2015

On December 10, Michigan was host to a listening session of USDA's Specialty Crop Committee, a subcommittee of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board. This listening session was held to elicit input from industry and state representatives, national organizations and institutions, local producers, and other groups interested in the issues with whic...

Craig Regelbrugge December 31 2015

The spending bill approved by Congress and signed by the President just before Christmas included several tax policy stocking stuffers. Thought not perfect, the tax package does include a number of provisions sure to be welcomed by horticulture businesses and their owners. Most importantly, the package made 22 of the extender items permanent, including:

  • Increased Section 179 direct ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 31 2015

The new year is upon us. And like most presidential election years, or “years divisible by four” as they are known in the political world, no one expects much federal legislation to make it to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. For sure, there will be at least a few pitched legislative battles. For instance, backers and opponents are girding for a fight over Congressional approval of...

Craig Regelbrugge November 26 2015

Congress has been working to finish the appropriations process for the remainder of fiscal 2016. The federal government has been operating under a short-term spending measure since October 1. That short-term measure expires on December 11. We expect House and Senate leaders to soon release and vote on an omnibus funding measure.

AmericanHort is closely monitoring the appropriations...

Craig Regelbrugge November 26 2015

Congress and President Obama have approved a two-week funding “patch” as negotiations for a multi-year funding plan continue in Congress. Meanwhile, AmericanHort and many of our state grassroots partners joined the American Society of Landscape Architects, Pollinator Partnership, and others on a

Craig Regelbrugge November 12 2015

Since our last update, the fight over the Obama Administration’s water rule has been a rollercoaster. First, S. 1140, a bill to require EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite the rule, narrowly missed getting 60 votes in the Senate, the required number to advance the legislation. The bill had 57 votes, just 3 short of the needed amount.

Next, the Senate passed a resolution ...

Craig Regelbrugge November 12 2015

Did you miss the Bee Savvy webinar last Thursday? Ouch, that stings! But don’t suffer. It was recorded, and you can watch it online. We briefly described the goals of the Grow Wise. Bee Smart™ pollinator stewardship initiative launched by AmericanHort and the Horticu...

Craig Regelbrugge October 29 2015

On October 23, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy convened a meeting of the leading conservation, garden, and horticultural trade groups and federal agency players working to make the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge a success. Garden trade perspectives were offered by Tammy Behm and Jennifer Schamber...

Craig Regelbrugge October 29 2015

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives on October 29. Ryan received 236 votes of his colleagues; only 9 Republicans defected and voted for Rep. Daniel Webster.

The 45-year-old Ryan’s sudden rise to Speaker fills the void left by the announced resignation of Speaker John Boehner, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s withdrawal from the race when i...

Craig Regelbrugge October 19 2015

Despite receiving overwhelmingly negative comments, USDA-APHIS dismissed their detractors’ concerns in announcing a new final rule on overtime rates. The new fee schedule goes into effect November 2, 2015.

AmericanHort acknowledged in our comments that the last adjustment was enacted 1...

Craig Regelbrugge October 19 2015

Before you shout that you have gone neonicotinoid-free, to be clear, concern over the health of honey bee and other pollinator populations has reached unprecedented levels. Credible health assessments point to many causes, with parasites, the diseases they vector, and habitat loss at the top of the list. Yet, pesticides are one factor, and especially so when misused.

Successful gr...

Craig Regelbrugge October 19 2015

On October 9, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that prevents the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from implementing the so-called Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule while the court reviews the various legal matters surrounding the regulation.

The motion for the prel...

Craig Regelbrugge October 01 2015

On September 16, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) held a seminar looking at farm labor trends. Given the leadership role AmericanHort plays in seeking sensible immigration and worker program reforms, I was an invited panelist.

The latest data, presented by university and USDA experts, paint a troubling picture of a workforce that is aging, less likely to migrate for jobs, and ...

Craig Regelbrugge October 01 2015

The short-term agreement to fund the federal government through December 11 defers for now the quest for near-term relief for H-2B visa program users. The most realistic path for such relief is through the appropriations process. AmericanHort and coalition allies have had some success adding riders to specific spending bills that we hope to see included in a final agreement for funding the gove...

Craig Regelbrugge October 01 2015

In the wake of House Speaker John Boehner’s announced resignation, Congress voted on a short-term plan to keep the government running beyond October 1, the start of fiscal 2016. The House of Representatives passed the measure only hours before the deadline on a vote of 277-151. Only 91 Republicans voted yes. Failure would have resulted in the government shutting down. The short-term “continuing...

Craig Regelbrugge September 10 2015

Shortly before Congress adjourned for the month of August, the Senate passed legislation to reauthorize federal transportation programs. Congress is now back, and the House is poised to consider its own version of a reauthorization – in case you’re wondering, we’re talking about an actual reauthorization. The House Transportation Committee is scheduled to mark up a reauthorization bill on Septe...

Craig Regelbrugge September 10 2015

On August 28, AmericanHort submitted official comments in response to EPA’s proposal to “Mitigate the Exposure to Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products.” The Society of American Florists and Northwest Nursery Improvem...

Craig Regelbrugge August 27 2015

Some years ago, landscape and nursery industry leader Dwight Hughes, Jr., wrote a best-selling book called Systems for Success. The focus was on mechanization, automation, and systems that can improve efficiency, profitability, and the quality of employment opportunities in the landscape industry.

Fast forward to the present. We’re borrowing Dwight’s title, but this time,...

Craig Regelbrugge August 27 2015

When Congress returns to Washington on September 8, other than taking up the proposed Iran nuclear deal, the main order of business will be to address federal spending measures for the new fiscal year that begins October 1. A series of federal spending bills must be signed into law by then in order to avoid a government shutdown. In practice, however, this deadline is rarely met. As in past yea...

Craig Regelbrugge August 13 2015

Every other year, the IR-4 Program prioritizes its next two-year research plan at its Ornamental Horticulture Workshop. IR-4 plays a critical role developing data to support registrations of pest management products, including reduced-risk and biopesticides, for greenhouse, nursery, and landscape use. IR-4 invites growers to

Craig Regelbrugge August 13 2015

On August 5, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed S.1500. The bill, introduced by Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and others, would specify that federal clean water, or NPDES, permits are not needed for pesticide applications. During the markup session, Senator Boxer (D-CA) objected that the committee has not held any hearings on this bill and an electri...

Craig Regelbrugge August 13 2015

AmericanHort recently weighed in with EPA in support of the registration request for the new active ingredient benzovindiflupyr (Solatenol) for food and non-food use. Solatenol is a promising new broad-spectrum fungicide. Access to new active ingredients is essential to the efficient production of nursery and floriculture crops as part of integrated pest management programs to control endemic a...

Craig Regelbrugge August 13 2015

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) merged before the Sixth Circuit a dozen lawsuits challenging the WOTUS rule issued by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On July 28, the JPML randomly selected the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio, to hear cases over the rule that were filed in 8 separate circuit courts by environmental groups seeking tougher restrictions, as we...

Craig Regelbrugge August 13 2015

AmericanHort participated in the recent annual meeting of the National Plant Board, held August 3-5 in Sedona, Arizona. The National Plant Board is a non-profit organization of the plant pest regulatory agencies of each of the states, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and Guam. AmericanHort works to engage and influence the Plant Board in the interest of protecting plant health while maintain...

Craig Regelbrugge August 13 2015

In 2011, boxwood blight was first detected in the U.S., prompting fears that the fungal disease would mean quarantines and bring sales of the iconic landscape plant to a halt. In response, AmericanHort (then ANLA) led an industry effort to develop science-based management practices for disease prevention and containment, and to find funds for urgent research needs. State plant regulatory offici...

Craig Regelbrugge August 01 2015

AmericanHort represented the horticulture industry at a recent Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy roundtable on the proposed Department of Labor (DOL) Overtime Regulations. In late June 2015, DOL’s Wage and Hour Division released a proposed rule that revises the overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governing the “white collar” exemption from overtime pay ...

Craig Regelbrugge August 01 2015

In response to a request from AmericanHort, the American Honey Producers Association, and others, EPA extended the comment deadline on its “Proposal to Mitigate Exposure to Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products” until August 28. In addition, EPA granted a 30-day extension to file comments in response to the proposed “Risk Management Approach to Identifying Options for Protecting the Monarc...

Craig Regelbrugge August 01 2015

As reported previously, the European Union (EU) has implemented a stringent quarantine intended to prevent the further introduction of the bacterial plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa into the EU region. In the U.S., Xylella strains are responsible for plant diseases such as Pierce’s disease of grapes, and bacterial leaf scorch affecting various shade trees and shrubs. A long l...

Craig Regelbrugge August 01 2015

Congress is headed home for a month away from the oppressive heat and humidity of a Washington summer. But after a little down time, when they return in early September they face the legislative equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane.

House members left Washington on July 30, but the Senate remains one more working week. The Senate surprised nearly everyone by reaching a bipartisan ...

Craig Regelbrugge July 16 2015

H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, is making its way through the House of Representatives, but faces an uphill climb in the Senate as well as the threat of a veto by President Obama. The bill, introduced by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), would require federal agencies to maximize water transfers south to the San Joaquin Valley and to find alternative means of prote...

Craig Regelbrugge July 16 2015

On February 11, Reps. Renacci (R-OH), Schrader (D-OR), Jenkins (R-KS), and Costa (D-CA) introduced the “Simplifying Technical Aspects Regarding Seasonality (STARS) Act of 2015.’’ This bill is intended to make it easier for seasonal businesses to meet their obligations under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by streamlining disparate treatment of seasonal workers under the ACA.

Now tha...

Craig Regelbrugge July 16 2015

AmericanHort and allies are pushing back against two ill-conceived bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives. The first is H.R.2943, introduced by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ). This bill would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from spending any funds on rose rosette disease research. Rose rosette disease, a viral pathogen transmitted by a mite, is a grave threa...

Craig Regelbrugge July 16 2015

There was plenty of employer angst at the Cultivate’15 session on labor law compliance. The session, led by AmericanHort’s labor and employment law counsel Lynn R. Jacquez, CJ-Lake LLC, covered a wide range of labor issues facing horticultural employers. At the center of the discussion was the Obama administration’s new overtime proposal. Among other things, the administration seeks to double t...

Craig Regelbrugge July 02 2015

On June 16, 2015, Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Ron Kind (D-WI) introduced the S Corp Modernization Act (H.R. 2788). This bi-partisan bill will be of particular interest to many small businesses. The S Corp Modernization Act, among other things:

  • Permanently reduces the recognition period during which an S Corporation that has converted from a corporation is subject to corporate tax...

Craig Regelbrugge July 02 2015

The Supreme Court has wrapped up an exceptionally busy spring with a number of high-profile cases. One such case was the Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies case of King v. Burwell. The Court found in favor of the Administration, holding that, under the terms of the ACA, the IRS can provide federal subsidies to individuals in states where the health insurance exchange is run by the feder...

Craig Regelbrugge July 02 2015

Where will nursery, greenhouse, and landscape workers come from in the next year, or 5, or 10? Surely some will be “homegrown” as they always have. But just as surely, many will come from other countries. Which countries? And does it matter?

While hope springs eternal, Congress is showing few signs of grappling with immigration reform anytime soon. We all know that foreign-born wor...

Craig Regelbrugge July 02 2015

With no Congressional progress to report on sensible immigration reform, AmericanHort continues efforts to preserve the viability of the H-2A and H-2B visa programs. Both programs are important to the horticulture industry. In the legislative arena, we are seeking to stabilize H-2B amendments as part of the appropriations process.

In late June, the Senate Appropriations Committee ...

Craig Regelbrugge June 11 2015

The Horticultural Research Institute, in collaboration with AmericanHort, continues to directly fund and leverage research to refine science-based guidance on horticultural practices and protecting bee and pollinator health. As part of the broad-based Horticulture Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative that includes industr...

Craig Regelbrugge June 11 2015

In the wake of a 2009 court decision, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2011 began requiring Clean Water Act (CWA) permits for certain applications of pesticides in or near water. This new permitting layer has been controversial since EPA has for 30 years implemented and overseen a comprehensive regulatory framework for pesticide applications under the Federal Insecticide, Fungi...

Craig Regelbrugge June 11 2015

EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers released their final Clean Water Act (CWA) Rule, previously called the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, on May 27. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will take effect 60 days after publication. The final rule creates confusion and liability for growers and business owners. It redefines which waters are subj...

Craig Regelbrugge June 11 2015

After requests from Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and other lawmakers, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducted a review of H-2B visas and concluded that the 33,000 cap for the second half of fiscal 2015 was not actually met on April 2 when H-2B petition processing was halted. On June 5, USCIS announced that is res...

Craig Regelbrugge June 11 2015

On June 3, 2015, the National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN), an unprecedented collaboration of national, regional, conservation, and gardening groups, launched the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. This is a strategic effort to promote and protect the needs of pollinators in North America.

In the fall of 2014, AmericanHort and seven other organizations were convened to prop...

Craig Regelbrugge May 26 2015

A few bright green leaves have emerged on the tree of bipartisan cooperation. Just before heading home for its Memorial Day recess, the U.S. Senate managed to passed legislation granting President Obama trade promotion authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. The bill provides a measure of Congressional guidance to the President, and if negotiations are comple...

Craig Regelbrugge May 26 2015

As summer approaches, we are getting into appropriations season in Congress. AmericanHort, through our leadership in the H-2B Workforce Coalition, is asking Congressional appropriators to address the H-2B program through the annual federal spending process. On May 14, the coalition sent a letter to the members of the House and Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittees asking them to...

Craig Regelbrugge May 26 2015

AmericanHort expects that EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers will publish a final Waters of the United States rule very soon. As we have previously reported, the rule could subject numerous marginal waters to federal regulation and create confusion and liability for land and business owners. On May 12, the House passed legislation (H.R. 1732) to require the agencies to withdraw the rule and...

Craig Regelbrugge May 26 2015

The Horticultural Research Institute, in collaboration with AmericanHort, established the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative in 2014. One of the primary goals of the Initiative is to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to inform, design, and refine an ...

Craig Regelbrugge May 26 2015

Last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed extensive revisions to its Worker Protection Standard regulation. At that time, AmericanHort and collaborators submitted extensive comments on the propos...

Craig Regelbrugge May 26 2015

On May 18, the long-awaited national strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators was announced. It is lengthy and detailed – 64 pages, plus 80 pages of appendices – covering activities that will be undertaken by many federal ag...

Craig Regelbrugge May 15 2015

On May 13, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee held a hearing to “Review the Federal Coordination and Response Regarding Pollinator Health.”

In his opening remarks, Chairman Rodney Davis (R-IL) mentioned that both the 2008 and 2014 farm bills authorized pollinator-related research. Davis said that the parasitic Varroa mite is...

Craig Regelbrugge May 15 2015

Those looking for good news in the latest honey bee report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bee Informed Partnership found it. Those looking for bad news found some of that too.

The USDA conducts a survey (since 2006) looking at honey bee over-winter colony losses...

Craig Regelbrugge May 15 2015

The head of the American Bankers Association recently called for the elimination of the Farm Credit system. Recognizing the importance of farm credit to the horticulture industry, AmericanHort sprang into action to join like-minded organizations on a letter to the ABA <...

Craig Regelbrugge May 15 2015

On May 11, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Regulatory Protection Integrity Act (H.R.1732) by a vote of 247-155. Twenty-four Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of the bill. The bill would require EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed WOTUS rule and to work with states and other stakeholders to propose a new rule.

This week, the Senate En...

Craig Regelbrugge May 04 2015

AmericanHort joined the Society of American Florists to submit formal comments emphasizing horticulture’s science-backed position that Ralstonia solanacearum, Race 3, Biovar 2 (R3Bv2) should be rem...

Craig Regelbrugge May 04 2015

If you import plants, the following update is technical yet important. Holders of post-entry quarantine (PPQ 546) permits that expire soon need to prepare to change the way they import some plants. Since the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service published the 2013 “Not Authorized Pending Pest Risk Analysis (NAPPRA)” Round 1 list and the new Controlled Import Permit (CIP) rules, the foll...

Craig Regelbrugge May 04 2015

The Horticultural Research Institute, the research affiliate of AmericanHort, hosted a “pollinator champions messaging training” on April 28. The audience included roughly 25 state, national, and Canadian nursery and landscape association leaders and staff gathered for an annual professional conference in Nashville, Tennessee....

Craig Regelbrugge May 04 2015

On April 29, the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) jointly issued two H-2B regulations that became effective immediately – a final H-2B wage methodology rule and an interim final comprehensive H-2B rule.

The final wage methodology rule is similar to the interim final wage rule that the program has been operating under since April 2013. Like the interim rule, it...

Craig Regelbrugge May 04 2015

Not often do grower groups agree with the Obama administration on budgetary priorities. On pollinators, we have found some common ground. AmericanHort and nearly 50 other organizations and companies sent a joint letter on April 24 to key Senate and House approp...

Craig Regelbrugge May 04 2015

On April 30, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Federal Clean Water Protection Act to address concerns about the proposed Waters of the Unites States rule issued by U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The bill would require EPA and the Corp to withdraw the proposed rule, complete certain economic and regulatory analyses, and propose a new rule by December 31, 2016 that adh...

Craig Regelbrugge April 20 2015

The federal crop insurance system may work fine for corn and soybeans, but it has long been a source of frustration for nursery growers. In fact, over the years, we have had nursery owners like John Watkins of Virginia, and Steve Bennett of Tennessee, testify before Congressional committees on the program’s shortcomings.

While the frustrations aren’t likely to ease soon, growers s...

Craig Regelbrugge April 20 2015

On April 15, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act (H.R. 1732) by a 36-22 vote. The legislation, introduced by the Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH), would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw ...

Craig Regelbrugge April 20 2015

Few are optimistic that the 114th Congress will be up to the job of passing comprehensive tax reform. Yet there are signs that we may see a much narrower effort to simply lower top rates for C corporations. For industries like horticulture, in which many businesses are organized as “pass-through” entities including S corporations, partnerships, and sole proprietorships, one-sided ta...

Craig Regelbrugge April 20 2015

A new website came to life April 20 as part of the Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. In the coming weeks, Grow Wise, Bee Smart will become a hub for accessing the latest information and guidance on the issue and the horti...

Craig Regelbrugge April 20 2015

More uncertainty rippled through the horticulture industry based on Lowe’s Home Improvement’s announcement that it will phase out neonicotinoid products and neonic-treated products over a four-year period. The announcement was buried deep inside a corporate responsibility report. However, Friends of the Earth (FOE) trumpeted it in a widely distributed press release. FOE is advocating for an out...

Craig Regelbrugge April 20 2015

On Tuesday, April 14, the National Labor Relations Board’s so-called “Ambush rule” took effect. Among its various provisions, the rule could shorten the election process in a unionization campaign to as little as 14 days, from the current median of 38 days, and deprive employers of due process. It effectively restricts communication between employers and employees prior to a union election, lea...

Craig Regelbrugge April 01 2015

EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon send their final Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review. This is the final step in the Administration’s review process before a regulation is finalized.

Earlier this week, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the impacts of the proposed WOTUS rule on rural America. ...

Craig Regelbrugge April 01 2015

AmericanHort continues to fight for H-2B relief. Through our co-chair position on the H-2B Workforce Coalition and our grassroots partnership with 40 state nursery and landscape associations, we have helped mobilize massive Congressional outreach and social media following a temporary shutdown in H-2B processing. The shutdown involved the federal Departments of Labor (DOL) and Homeland Security...

Craig Regelbrugge April 01 2015

Finally, a bit of good news on the immigration reform front. On March 26, just before the onset of a two2-week Congressional recess, 61 Representatives sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). The letter unders...

Craig Regelbrugge March 12 2015

AmericanHort recently joined like-minded trade associations active in the Coalition for a Democratic Workforce (CDW) on a letter urging Congress to use the Congressional Review Act as a mechanism to push back against an activist National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) generally, and its “Ambush rule” specifically. The so-called “Ambush rule,” which the NLRB published last December, would allow un...

Craig Regelbrugge March 12 2015

AmericanHort’s Industry Advocacy and Public Policy Committee met February 25 and 26 in Washington. The committee discussed the status of top current priorities such as the Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative and labor and immigration. In fact, the committee met just before the E-Verify and enforcement debate began in the House Judiciary Committee, so the committee’s review and guidance on...

Craig Regelbrugge March 12 2015

The House Judiciary Committee approved the Legal Workforce Act, H.R. 1147, on March 3 by a party-line vote of 20-13. This bill, authored by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), would require U.S. employers to check the work eligibility of all new hires through the E-Verify system.

AmericanHort is urging House leadership not to bring H.R.1147 to the House floor for consideration unless ...

Craig Regelbrugge March 12 2015

On March 5, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will no longer accept or process H-2B labor certifications or requests for H-2B prevailing wage determinations in light of a March 4 decision in Perez v. Perez, No. 3:14-cv-682 (N.D. Florida, Mar. 4, 2015). Shortly after the DOL announcement, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Citizenship and Immigration Services foll...

Craig Regelbrugge February 25 2015

EPA and the US Army Corps continue to push for their proposed Waters of United States (WOTUS) regulation. Moreover, there is an apparent effort to rebrand the initiative as the “Clean Water Rule.” We could see a final rule published in late spring or early summer. Recently EPA has tried to tie the rule to drinking water protection...

Craig Regelbrugge February 25 2015

At our editorial deadline, it looked like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would shut down on February 27. Immigration policy differences are at the heart of this fight. Earlier in the year, the House passed a DHS funding measure that would block President Obama's executive actions to defer deportations for some 4 million undocumented immigrants. House Republicans continue to insist th...

Craig Regelbrugge February 25 2015

Reps. Jim Renacci (R-OH), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), and Jim Costa (D-CA) have introduced the STARS Act, formally known as H.R. 863, the “Simplifying Technical Aspects Regarding Seasonality Act.” The bill would align various seasonal definitions in the Affordable Care Act at six months, somewhat clarifying the compliance environment for employers. AmericanHort and most of our st...

Craig Regelbrugge February 25 2015

On February 25, AmericanHort and several other agricultural organizations met with House Judiciary Committee majority staff. The basic message: their bosses want to see enforcement legislation move before they are willing to consider changes to agricultural or other guest worker programs.

The staff expressed the view that the climate in the House simply leaves no room for what Ame...

Craig Regelbrugge February 12 2015

USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to release the parasitic wasp Spathius galinae into the continental United States for the biological control of emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis. Meanwhile, the destructive pest continues its march east, west, and south. APHIS recently expanded the emerald ash borer quarantined area in Wisconsin, and qu...

Craig Regelbrugge February 12 2015

Efforts in the Senate to debate the House-passed measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security are stuck. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs 60 votes on a procedural motion to begin the debate and amendment process, but Democrats are refusing to go along in opposition to the House language which would defund President Obama’s executive actions providing “deferred deportation” to childh...

Craig Regelbrugge February 12 2015

On February 11, Reps. Jim Renacci (R-OH), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), and Jim Costa (D-CA) introduced H.R.863, the “Simplifying Technical Aspects Regarding Seasonality (STARS) Act of 2015.’’ This bill, which is identical to last year’s legislation, is intended to make it easier for seasonal businesses to meet their obligations under the Affordable Care Act. Senator Ayotte (R-NH) ...

Craig Regelbrugge January 29 2015

In the lead up to his State of the Union address, President Obama announced some of the tax reform proposals that will be included in the President’s 2016 budget that he is expected to send to Congress on February 2, 2015. On January 17, 2015, the White House detailed these proposals in a fact sheet entitled “A Simpler, Fairer Tax Code that Reasonably Invests in Middle Class Families.”

Craig Regelbrugge January 29 2015

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has appointed the 12-member governing board for the Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order (check-off). The board appointment is the latest in a years-long journey by the industry to establish a self-funded, USDA-administered program to facilitate research and promotion. The following ind...

Craig Regelbrugge January 29 2015

Worried about a neighbor’s herbicide application resulting in drift that damages your nursery or greenhouse crop? A discussion of grower issues at a recent Illinois Green Industry Association meeting turned to this issue and steps to prevent it. Concerns over herbicide impacts are growing as new genetically modified soybeans and other crops resistant to nonselective herbicides like dicamba are...

Craig Regelbrugge January 29 2015

A border security bill known as H.R. 399, the Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015, is significantly more conservative and far-reaching than a version approved by the House Homeland Security Committee during the last Congress. And the bill recently cleared the same committee on a party line vote. But last month, Republican leadership postponed consideration of the bill by the full House. What i...

Craig Regelbrugge January 15 2015

By Susan Megy and Craig Regelbrugge

After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, rehabilitating the agricultural sector has been a major priority for the Haitian government. In January 2012, Haiti became eligible as a potential source of workers for the United States H-2A Visa Program.

To foster learning and facilitate capacity building between Haitian agriculture ...

Craig Regelbrugge January 15 2015

AmericanHort continues to fight for H-2B relief on behalf of our members, but we face ongoing challenges from the Department of Labor (DOL) and labor groups.

DOL announced December 8 that it will no longer issue H-2B prevailing wage determinations based on employer-provided wage surveys. The announcement followed a court order in the Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas...

Craig Regelbrugge January 15 2015

On January 8, the House of Representatives passed legislation (HR 30) that would require applicable large employers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to offer health insurance to employees who work at least 40 hours per week. The bill, which passed by a vote of 252-172, would change the existing ACA requirement that applicable employers provide insurance coverage to employees who work at leas...

Craig Regelbrugge January 15 2015

Tax time always brings its surprises and this year is no exception. As some have found out as their tax preparers begin to assemble their returns, a highly technical regulation that went into effect on January 1, 2014 will have an impact on some horticultural businesses’ returns. The rule, known officially as the “Repair and Maintenance” rule in tax accounting circles (and officially, “Guidance...

Craig Regelbrugge January 15 2015

Efforts to block President Obama’s executive actions on immigration are proceeding in Congress, at least for now, but they aren’t likely to succeed. Last December, before adjourning, Congress passed a bill that funds the federal government through September 30 of this year, with one exception. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs only through February 27. House Republicans...

Craig Regelbrugge December 31 2014

USDA has announced that greater protection is now available from the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for crops traditionally ineligible for federal crop insurance. The new options, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture,...

Craig Regelbrugge December 31 2014

In mid-December, USDA launched the 2014 Census of Horticulture. This survey builds on the recent Census of Agriculture, and will provide the first horticultural specialties update since 2009, during the depths of the economic downturn. This survey provides vital information that helps AmericanHort’s advocacy and research efforts. Survey questionnaires are due February 5. If you get one, please ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 31 2014

On December 19, the Department of Labor published new Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWR) for the H-2A program. The rates took effect immediately upon publication, and typically serve as the applicable minimum wage that must be paid to H-2A workers as well as any US workers in ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 31 2014

AmericanHort hosted an informational webinar for members on the topic of the President’s recent executive actions on immigration, and implications for horticultural employers. Guest presenters were Lynn Jacquez, Chris Schulte, and Monte Lake of Washington-based CJ-Lake LLC. CJ-Lake serves as AmericanHort’s employment and immigration counsel, and their team of experts is also available to advise...

Craig Regelbrugge December 31 2014

With the arrival of 2015 comes the swearing in of the new Congress. With Republicans in control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, there is much pent-up demand for legislative action on many fronts, ranging from trade agreements to tax reform to Affordable Care Act relief. But, change is likely to be mostly slow and incremental, since it usually takes 60 votes to pass legislation....

Craig Regelbrugge December 31 2014

AmericanHort was officially launched at the beginning of 2014, and our industry advocacy and research team has been busy ever since. Here are just a few notable accomplishments in the months that followed:

  • A new farm bill. After a series of twists, turns, and a failed attempt, Congress finally passed a new Farm Bill in January. The bill features several extremely imp...

Craig Regelbrugge December 11 2014

Republican efforts to block President Obama’s executive actions have begun. On the political front, the House of Representatives passed H.R.5759, the Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act of 2014, on a vote of 219 – 197. If all 435 members vote, a simple majority in the House is 218 votes. However, the measure was not taken up by the Senate, and would face a presidential veto in an ...

Craig Regelbrugge December 11 2014

In response to a court order in Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas et al v. Solis, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced on December 8 that it will no longer issue prevailing wage determinations in the H-2B program based on employer-provided wage surveys. The court invalidated the portion of the 2013 interim final wage rule that deals with wage surveys. Prevailing wage dete...

Craig Regelbrugge December 11 2014

Before adjourning for the year, Congress reached agreement on a massive funding bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year. The hybrid measure, dubbed the “cromnibus” funds most federal agencies through September 30, 2015 through an omnibus component. The exception is the Department of Homeland Security. Because Congressional Republicans want a mechanism to try to ...

Craig Regelbrugge November 28 2014

Steve Bronars, PhD, a respected labor economist and AmericanHort advisor, has published a chart of expected H-2A program Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs) for 2015. These new rates are based on recently released USDA farm labor data, and will take effect when the Department of Labor publ...

Craig Regelbrugge November 28 2014

House and Senate Appropriators and staff continue to negotiate over 12 spending bills to fund the federal government for the remainder of the 2015 fiscal year, which began on October 1, 2014 and runs through September 30, 2015. The goal is to fold all of these spending measures into a single “omnibus” appropriations bill. One of the issues that lawmakers are discussing is important H-2B program...

Craig Regelbrugge November 28 2014

On November 20, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration policy. The president’s action will have substantial and mixed implications for the horticulture industry and the politics of immigration reform.

The president announced a “deferred action for parents” program intended to provide relief from deportation and work authority to unauthorized immigra...

Craig Regelbrugge November 21 2014

November 21, 2014

On November 20, President Barack Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration policy. The president’s action will have substantial and mixed implications for the horticulture industry and the politics of immigration reform.

The president announced measures intended to provide relief from deportation and work authority to unauthorized ...

Craig Regelbrugge November 13 2014

The 2014 midterm elections have come and gone, and the winds of political change are blowing in the Nation’s Capital. Here’s a quick recap and thoughts about what change will mean for horticulture businesses.

U.S. Senate
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s dream came true. Come January, he will replace Nevada’s Harry Reid as the Majority Leader. Repu...

Craig Regelbrugge October 30 2014

Foreign invasive plant pest and disease threats arriving on U.S. shores are a constant threat to the business of horticulture. They often damage nursery and greenhouse plants and landscapes. Measures to discourage their spread around the U.S. disrupt the orderly marketing of plants, which hurts growers and garden retailers alike. Some of most serious threats we're facing nowadays were introduce...

Craig Regelbrugge October 30 2014

“Politics” is a contact sport. When it comes to advocating for your business, you are either on the field or on the sidelines. If you choose to sit on the sidelines, how can you win?

Congress comes back to Washington on November 12 for a “lame duck” session. While it remains to be seen just how productive they’ll be, AmericanHort recently launched three new grassroots campaigns on ...

Craig Regelbrugge October 16 2014

Growers who use the H-2A visa program are often confused about how to treat H-2A workers for federal tax purposes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is working to clarify H-2A tax compliance, and is hosting a free webinar open to growers, associations, and tax professionals. Topics to be covered include:

  • Social security numbers – who needs one and how to get it
  • Federal incom...

Craig Regelbrugge October 13 2014

EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently extended the comment deadline on the Waters of the United States proposed rule until November 14. Meanwhile, the push-back against the rule is growing.

On October 1, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy asked EPA and the Corps to withdraw the proposed rule. According to the

Craig Regelbrugge October 13 2014

Ask a nursery or greenhouse grower, landscape professional, or other horticultural business owner the biggest business challenge they are facing, and odds are the answer will be “finding labor.” Many industry businesses struggle to find the human talent they need to sustain their business, let alone expand. It’s a challenge across the spectrum – from field and crew workers to foremen, designers...

Craig Regelbrugge October 02 2014

Congress returns November 12 for a “lame duck” legislative session. Urgent priorities will include finding agreement on how to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year which ends September 30, 2015, as well as U.S. engagement in the Middle East. Presuming success on those fronts, what to do with various expiring tax credits and deductions looms as important for business.

Craig Regelbrugge October 02 2014

In these times of political polarization and gridlock, there still are groups committed to solutions that move the nation forward. One example is the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). Founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell, the BPC is a non-profit organization that drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned n...

Craig Regelbrugge September 11 2014

President Obama has announced that he will not pursue executive action on immigration until after the November elections. The decision largely reflects concern that acting now will lead to a voter backlash that may further challenge Democrats in their effort to retain control of the Senate. Many of the seats Democrats are defending this election cycle are in fairly conservative states like Alas...

Craig Regelbrugge August 28 2014

On August 27, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee released maps of water bodies across the United States. EPA commissioned the maps in 2013 shortly after EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers proposed their "Waters of the U.S." rule. The agency has said that the maps are not related to the rulemaking.

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) disagrees. In a letter to EP...

Craig Regelbrugge August 28 2014

Congress spent the month of August at home, but will return to Washington and reconvene on September 8. The biggest “must-do” is appropriations. Current federal spending bills expire on September 30, so Congress will have to do something or risk a federal government shutdown mere weeks before the November elections.

Prior to the August recess, both chambers of Congress began to dr...

Craig Regelbrugge August 28 2014

When Labor Department investigators show up at a horticultural business for a routine wage and hour audit, there’s usually at least a little pain. Sometimes, a lot. Diversified businesses are especially vulnerable to honest mistakes over agricultural status, overtime, employee classification, and more. Fines and back wages can be crippling. For this examination, good preparation is the cl...

Craig Regelbrugge August 14 2014

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced last week that the government began sending letters in English and Spanish to approximately 310,000 individuals advising them that they need to verify their immigration status or risk having their health insurance cut off at the end of September. These individuals will need to submit additional documentation electronically or by mai...

Craig Regelbrugge August 14 2014

AmericanHort and allies filed official comments on August 18 in response to EPA’s proposed changes to the federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS) for agricultural workers that apply pesticide products. The current WPS provisions have been in place since 1992. While some targeted refinements to the current WPS requirements may make sense, we disagree with EPA’s proposal to completely re-write t...

Craig Regelbrugge August 01 2014

AmericanHort was invited to brief the National Plant Board on the state of the industry and plant health, quarantine, and trade issues of common interest. The Plant Board is comprised of the state regulators who license and inspect nursery and greenhouse farms so that they can ship interstate. Other than an organizational and industry update, we focused mostly on two issues – pollinators ...

Craig Regelbrugge August 01 2014

On July 31, the House passed legislation (H.R.935) by a vote of 267-161 that would clarify that Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are not needed for pesticide applications. The vote follows an unsuccessful attempt earlier in the week to bring up the measure under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority vote. The House has passe...

Craig Regelbrugge July 30 2014

AmericanHort briefed the White House domestic policy team on the situation confronting the horticulture industry in the wake of Congressional failure to move immigration legislation forward. The meeting, attended by a small group of agriculture and business representatives, was one of a series of listening sessions the White House has held to seek input on potential immigration-related administ...

Craig Regelbrugge July 10 2014

AmericanHort and our allied associations, including the Society of American Florists, PLANET, and the National Restaurant Association, continue efforts to educate Congress about the Affordable Care Act’s complex treatment of seasonal workers. As a result of these efforts, Reps. Renacci (R-OH) and Schrader (D-OR) and others plan to introduce legislation soon to make it somewhat easier for season...

Craig Regelbrugge July 10 2014

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is conducting employer audits at a record pace, and we continue to hear reports of horticultural businesses facing significant back pay liability and even fines. In response, AmericanHort has stepped up education, outreach, and advocacy.

On June 27, AmericanHort met with top Wage and Hour policy staff, and urged a return to a m...

Craig Regelbrugge July 03 2014

July 9 was a “day of action” for business and agriculture interests pressing the House of Representatives to take up immigration reform legislation this year. AmericanHort partnered to provide speakers for several of the 60 events and telephonic press conferences held in Congressional districts around the country. The events, organized by Partnership for a New American Economy, resulted in posi...

Craig Regelbrugge June 12 2014

It is widely expected that the White House will make a policy announcement regarding pollinators the week of June 16, to correspond with National Pollinator Week. There’s little information about what those policies might be but AmericanHort will be watching it closely.

Also in play, a letter is being circulated on Capitol Hill encouraging support for H.R. 4790, “...