Norm Goldenberg has devoted his career to defending the industry and he’s not through yet as PLANET’s new president

With Norman Goldenberg taking over this year as president of the Professional Landcare Association (PLANET), history suggests that legislative issues impacting the landscape and lawn care industry will get more scrutiny during 2012-2013. Here are a few reasons why PLANET members can look forward to Goldenberg’s leadership on that front.

Norman “Norm” Goldenberg (standing, second from left) and the TruGreen team of volunteers taking a break from the heat at the Renewal & Remembrance service project at Arlington National Cemetery.

Goldenberg, senior vice president of government affairs and industry relations for Terminix International and TruGreen, is in his 51st year in the turf and pest control industries. He’s president of Project Evergreen and past president of both the National Pest Management Association and the Florida Pest Management Association. On the turf side, he served on PLANET’s Board of Directors from 2005-2011 and also actively participated for many years on the board of the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) before its merger about seven years ago with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America to form PLANET.

Goldenberg has also served as chairman of both PLCAA’s and PLANET’s Government Affairs Committee for long periods of time in addition to being an active member of the Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) assocation’s Government Issues Committee from 1992-2011.

“I strongly believe in associations, because you can gain more through what an association can do than you can on your own,” says Goldenberg. “I don’t care how big a company is [like Terminix and TruGreen, for example] the industry stilll gets more attention where it counts when it’s represented by an association, such as PLANET. That’s why in the later stages of my career, I have maintained my activity in associations on the lawn care and pest control sides.

“We have come a long way in PLANET,” he continues. “There was a lot of digestion in the first couple of years since PLCAA and ALCA merged in 2005 to form PLANET. There were some differences of opinion and we had to form committees that satisfied everyone’s needs. It has taken some time, but in the last two years, we have evolved very strongly.”

He points out that PLANET now has five specialty groups that work with and for the interests of the individuals and companies that it represents in the primary green industry contracting service categories. The speciality groups are: design, build and installation group; interior plantscaping; landscape management; the lawn care specialty group; and the recently added irrigation group. Each of these has a chairperson.

PLANET also has nine of 10 committees as well as 11 subcommittees. Goldenberg’s main activities have centered around the political action committee. In addition to the various committees, at various times, 13 to 17 members serve on PLANET’s Board of Directors. They’re nominated and elected by a special association committee and then voted on by PLANET members.

Their decisions direct PLANET’s staff, says Goldenberg, adding that “Sabenna Hickman is PLANET’s CEO and has been a terrific staff director.”

Norm Goldenberg has been involved with the pest control and lawn care industries for 50 years.

Goldenberg’s Career at a Glance

1958-1962: University of Florida, B.S. Entomology
1962-1963: Joins Truly Nolan in Miami, gets his start in pest control
1963-1969: Hired by Orkin as a salesman, with stops in various Florida locations, rising to management and working in various cities from Atlanta to Salt Lake City
1969-1974: Joins Sanitas Service Corp. and becomes responsible for acquisitions and operations
1974-1987: In 1974 purchases Lear Pest Control in North Miami, Fla., and later acquires Alert Pest Control to form Alert Lear Pest Control
1987: Sells Alert Lear Pest Control to Waste Management, which he joins as a district manager and then vice president of government and regulatory affairs for its pest control division
1990: Waste Management sells its pest control and lawn care businesses to ServiceMaster, which Goldenberg joins in a similar role he had as government and regulator affairs role with Waste Management
Goldenberg and his wife, Diane, live in Miami Beach, Fla. They have four children and six grandchildren.

Simmering lawn care issues

Goldenberg points out that there are several issues the industry will be facing in 2012.

“It’s interesting, but several years ago it was all about pesticides and related health issues,” he says. “Well, we still have that, but it’s now also about nutrients, the fertilizers that our industry uses.” He references a recent article in the Washington Post newspaper that focused on the nutrients going into and polluting the Chesapeake Bay. This is just one of many articles written on the subject of fertilizers, he says.

“They [various organizations as well as individuals] are trying to put bans on fertilizer applications,” says Goldenberg. “If rain is imminent, they don’t want an application of fertilizer. But, how are we supposed to know that when meteorologists don’t know that all the time?

“It’s been a real tough battle,” he continues. “What we’re fighting now in Florida, for example, are 30 to 40 municipalities, cities and counties, mostly along the west coast of the state, that have imposed bans. These bans differ from area to area. Our technicians are doing their applications, but they have to be aware what is going on from city to city. This is a big issue.

“They have to ask themselves, ‘Can I apply here? Can I not apply there? Next month will there be a ban on fertilizers at this location?'” he says. “We’re trying to get legislation passed at the state level [for fertilizer applications] in Florida.” Goldenberg says.

He explains that applicators there are supposed to follow best management practices (BMPs) for nutrient applications, and the great majority of lawn care pros follow them. “We want to be exempt from these local ordinances,” he adds, pointing out that there are two bills in the Florida legislature seeking pre-exemption for fertilizer use. It’s a tough fight, he concedes.

“Cities and counties are absolutely opposed to it, as are the Sierra Clubs of the world. They think that certain requirements are needed. The science doesn’t show that,” he maintains. Independent research has shown that healthy growing turfgrass protects the ground water. Healthy turf protects against runoff onto hardscape surfaces. As long as professional applicators use best management practices in providing their services, there’s very little, if any, threat of contaminating local waterways, Goldenberg says.

Taking a look at the national level, he says that 41 states have preemption, meaning that local or regional governments can’t regulate the application, purchase and sale of pesticides. The regulations on these products can only be changed at the state level. The lawn care industry wants states to follow the same preemption principle for fertilizers.

“Over the last several years, our industry has been trying to get preemption on fertilizers. We have been successful in 20 to 22 states and we add a couple each year. But it’s been a tough fight because we have the same groups against us,” he says.

“Aside from that, we also have water issues,” he says. “The majority of water pollution is caused by antiquated septic systems and sewer systems that exist all over the country. To replace them we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, so they go after the fertilizers.”

Jerry Mix, the former and longtime editor and publisher of Pest Control magazine, lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio.