What happens in Canada doesn’t always stay in Canada, in reference to a push in the U.S. for health care reform and a growing interest to regulate the application of control products. The two are fundamentally unrelated albeit one important area: government involvement.
Currently both U.S. health care providers and lawn care professionals can breathe a sigh of relief that legislators are lagging behind their northern counterparts. The question is for how long? Discussion over health care is for another article. For this one, the topic focuses on the health of the environment and how lawn care professionals can position themselves to stay viable and profitable in view of attempts to regulate the industry.
It’s Happening at the Local Level
Lawn care providers in Canada have long been waging a well-documented battle, one that has seen several provinces, including Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia, place bans on synthetic chemicals for cosmetic use and dozens of municipalities stepping forward with their own restrictions. The latter gained momentum after court rulings struck down laws that gave federal laws pre-emption over those at the provincial and local levels.
The situation is different in the U.S. where federal regulations usually reign supreme, the key word being “usually”. In recent years, several states have become proactive in attempts to regulate nutrients while municipalities in the Northeast and other areas have increased efforts to ban the use of pesticides in school yards and sports fields.
As explained by Tom Delaney, PLANET’s director of government affairs, nutrient restrictions began in the upper Midwest where states like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan banned the use of phosphorus. “Regulating nutrients gained momentum when Obama declared the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure,” Delaney relates. “At that point, the discussion went beyond phosphorus to include nitrogen, and caught the attention of governors in the five adjoining states. New York was among the first of those states to call for blackouts, times when fertilizers couldn’t be applied. More recently, New Jersey passed legislation that would restrict nitrogen levels.”
According to Delaney, blackout periods were initially adopted in areas in Florida and in Delaware. Anti-pesticide groups are also beginning to make more noise in an attempt to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic reasons, as they have succeeded to do in several Canadian municipalities.
As both Delaney and Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) president Aaron Hobbs point out, vocal, minority activist groups are spearheading the regulatory initiatives by getting the ear of legislators, and it’s up to the Green Industry to stand up and make itself heard.
“The model in Canada is being imported here with a similar message,” says Hobbs. “But remember, the general public doesn’t share the activists’ agenda. The first step for lawn care professionals is to become aware of what’s going on in their communities and become involved by going to town and city council meetings. Get to know policy makers and become a resource for them. Our industry has something they want and need to make good decisions: expertise.
“Lawn care operators are already doing the right thing with respect to sustainable practices and adopting environmentally sound input technologies, but it’s important they go the extra mile and let their customers and policymakers know it on a regular basis,” Hobbs continues. “Part of communicating and building those relationships is reminding them about the important benefits of the services they are providing.” RISE and PLANET offer talking points and many other resources to help lawn care professionals educate their customers and legislators.