Speakers cover wide range of horticulture issues
GLEN ARM, Md. — Maryland Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Julie Oberg led off the morning discussion program at this year’s Maryland Nursery, Landscape, and Greenhouse Association Field Day by welcoming the large turnout and noting that the 300-plus horticulture and nursery attendees belong to Maryland’s second largest sector of agriculture.
She quickly moved to the topic at the top of everyone’s list, the spotted laternfly, an invasive insect species that has infiltrated Pennsylvania and introduced Kimberly Rice, the managing director for plant protection and weed management at MDA.
Before addressing the primary pest issue, Rice updated the attendees, noting that there had been an increase of 600 acres in registered and licensed Maryland nurseries.
She also stated MDA had “purchased two drones to use in the nursery inspection process.”
As for the spotted laternfly, Rice stated that Pennsylvania and Virginia had both set up quarantine areas in an effort to contain the insect pest’s spread.
She reminded the group, “if you are moving anything out of quarantine areas, you must have a permit to do so.”
As for Maryland’s current status, Rice said, “Presently, Maryland doesn’t have a quarantine in place; however, we will re-evaluate that status at the end of the season.”
Next up was George Mayo, executive director of the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation. Mayo promptly turned his presentation over to Jay Plummer, vice president of S&L Productions, which is responsible for the Maryland Home & Garden Show held annually at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Md.
Plummer encouraged the field day attendees to not only consider becoming an exhibitor at the show, but to also consider doing a showcase garden to “show the value of quality landscapes and design.”
He then briefly described how the show tries to make such garden exhibits as advantageous as possible for exhibitors by providing everything from free mulch to judging awards to help defray some of the exhibits’ costs.
“Our goal is to make everyone in the industry successful,” Plummer said. “Do what inspires you.”
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of public policy and government relations at AmericanHort, said the two biggest national legislative issues centered on labor and trucking. On the labor issue, which for the last few years has focused on the availability of H-2A and H-2B visas for seasonal workers, Regelbrugge reported that AmericanHort has been actively pursuing “a needed long term solution to the problem,” including becoming “one of a handful of organizations with a seat at the table on reforms” as co-chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform.
For the trucking issue, AmericanHort has been advocating for “a bill that clearly defines horticulture as part of the agriculture exemption under transportation policy and regulatory compliance.”
In a later conversation, Tristan Daedalus, director of advocacy and policy communications and introduced by Regelbrugge as the newest member of their Industry Advocacy and Research team, said “H.R. 1673, the Agricultural Trucking Relief Act, (and its recently introduced Senate companion bill, S. 2025,) will legislatively clarify that horticulture is included in the exemption.
“Right now, DOT (Department of Transportation) inspectors are pulling people over and making calls on the spot as to whether their truck’s contents are agricultural or not.”
Mark Schlossberg of ProLawnPlus provided a brief update on the lawsuit filed by the industry to prevent the implementation of the “2015 law banning the cosmetic use of lawn control products” in Montgomery County.
Although the industry initially won at the District Court level in 2017, on May 3, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overruled the lower court’s decision.
In response, Schlossberg said Montgomery County announced that landscapers should “prepare for implementation to organic lawn practices and they will enforce the law on a complaint driven basis.”
Although the industry “has filed for cert to the Maryland Court of Appeals,” Maryland’s highest state court, Schlossberg characterized the current situation as “a moving target with briefs to be filed by July 7th.”
Andrew Bray, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals, wrapped up the morning program with an update on glyphosate.
“I’m here to provide accurate information about a federally regulated pesticide,” Bray said. The primary basis behind the three current California court cases successfully brought against Monsanto “for a failure to warn of a cancer risk” is a study by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer indicated that glyphosate is a probably carcinogenic for humans, Bray said.
Bray, however, noted that on May 3, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency published its latest glyphosate review stating “there are no risks to public health when used in accordance with the labels. Remember,” Bray concluded, “if you don’t use it in accordance with the label, then you are in violation of federal law.”
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