Op Ed: The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) urges advocacy.
The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) will hold its ELEVATE conference and expo on September 18-21 in Orlando, FL. In anticipation, Turf talked to NALP executives about increasing efforts at state levels to restrict or ban common pesticides. Here, NALP’s Director of State & Local Government Relations, Bob Mann, writes about NALP’s stance and advocacy efforts.
Pesticides are among the most regulated commodities in the U.S. The Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) sets the standard for how pesticides are brought to market and labeled for use; as well as the requirements for application. FIFRA also provides for co-regulation of pesticides with the states, each of which has a state law that conforms to FIFRA. Each state also has a Lead Agency that registers pesticide products for use within the state, and provides applicator regulation through licensing and certification. Each state’s regulatory scheme is unique.
Unfortunately, the science surrounding pesticides is highly technical and crosses many different disciplines. In order to determine if a pesticide is safe for use, it must be evaluated by chemists, toxicologists, medical doctors, biologists, and others. This science is not easily understood, nor is the evaluation process that pesticides are subjected to. This misunderstanding can lead to the public calling for elected officials to “do something” to allay fears.
Each year, hundreds of bills are filed in state legislatures seeking to further regulate or ban pesticides. Some bills are filed at the behest of the state lead agency to address issues that can’t be solved through changes to regulation. For instance, the EPA recently updated its Certification and Training rules, which required many states to approach their legislatures in order to bring state statutes into conformity with federal requirements. NALP supports such legislative efforts because it enhances safety, and supports the regulatory framework.
Yet bills such as above represent the minority. Most state bills are introduced by legislators that either don’t understand the complexities or are opposed to pesticides altogether. These bills take many different forms, such as banning an individual active ingredient (like glyphosate), targeting groups of pesticides (such as neonicotinoids), or pushing for an active ingredient to be listed as a Restricted Use Pesticide.
Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in CO that would have banned neonicotinoids. With strategy and persistence, NALP members joined with state partners and allied Green Industry associations to testify at the hearing. Explanation by Industry professionals convinced committee members the bill was not in the best interests of the state and it didn’t pass. This was a fantastic example of how grass roots advocacy should work.
There will be more opportunities like this in early 2023 as non-profit groups approach like-minded legislators and ask them to file bills. Reading through the myriad bills across the U.S., one is struck by the cut and paste nature of the rhetoric used to justify new laws. These rationalizations ignore that an extensive body of regulation already exists addressing the exact points of contention in these bills.
Raise Your Voice
NALP, as a general rule, opposes legislation of this nature since it attempts to circumvent existing law that we feel already addresses pesticide regulation more than adequately. But how do we go about articulating this opposition? We cannot be in all fifty states at once, and having a large trade association show up, telling a legislator or committee they’re wrong, isn’t always welcome. However, legislators will always stop to listen to their constituents—the people that vote for them and provide campaign contributions. This is where you come in, and this is where we need you to participate.
Landscapers are incredibly busy people, working from dawn to dusk. There’s no time to waste on politics. It’s this industriousness that activists on the other side rely upon. The future belongs to those who show up. If legislation is introduced that negatively affects your business, and the only people that speak to lawmakers are people in favor of that legislation, how do you think the legislator will vote? You must create room in your priorities to speak up.
“I can’t do that,” is the response we often hear. Whether it’s unfamiliarity with the process or apprehension about speaking out, it’s powerful motivation to stay on the sidelines. Yet the opposite is true. Green Industry pros are natural politicians due to the nature of our work. Dealing with difficult customers, balancing landscape architect demands, and keeping employees happy are just some of our superpowers. Once a contractor dips his/her toe in the water of the political process, it’s not long until they’re diving in heads first.
The most important thing you can do to protect your business is to stay informed. Join the Industry’s public advocacy platform, Voices for Healthy Green Spaces, and help protect our ability to create and maintain healthy green spaces.
Mann is the Director of State and Local Government Relations, for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). Prior to this role, he was a 30-year veteran of the professional lawn care industry. Mann is a graduate of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture with a degree in Turf Management and a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a degree in Agricultural Economics. He is also a Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Manager and was a Certified Pesticide Applicator in six states.
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