AmericanHort Leaders Sound Off on the State of Labor, the Political Environment, and More

It’s great to know that, while you’re busy running the day-to-day operations of your greenhouse, nursery, or retail business, there are people and organizations working on your behalf to improve the present and future state of the industry. This was on full display during a State of the Industry keynote presentation from the AmericanHort leadership team at Cultivate’23.

We already reported on Dr. Charlie Hall’s economic outlook for the green industry during the presentation. Now, here are some insights from AmericanHort President and CEO Ken Fisher and Executive Vice President of Advocacy, Research, & Industry Relations Craig Regelbrugge on the challenges and opportunities the horticulture industry is facing, and how AmericanHort is addressing them.

Fisher began with a reminder that AmericanHort remains focused on those hard-to-notice business threats that can have big consequences for your business. For example, continuing labor challenges can make it hard for anyone to run a business.

“We need a bipartisan solution that includes comprehensive immigration reform,” Fisher says. “The challenge is that a perfect solution doesn’t exist, and if we don’t address the hurdles of H-2A and E-verify, things might get worse.”

After highlighting a few other positives (the housing market) and negatives (water shortages) in the market, Fisher closed by cautioning about an overreliance on digital communication.

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“Social media has many benefits, but we also need to maintain personal relationships,” Fisher said, a fitting comment during one of the industry’s largest in-person gatherings.

Following Fisher’s remarks, Regelbrugge provided a regulatory and political update, with brief overviews of the work taking place behind the scenes at AmericanHort.

  • Labor/worforce: “We are in a very difficult political environment. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy represents an ag-heavy district, but he has no political advantage to addressing our concerns.” Fortunately, Regelbrugge pointed out some attempts at positive change on Capitol Hill, including reintroduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, and including some riders in Appropriations discussions.
  • Farm Bill: Regelbrugge called out the work that growers and AmericanHort members Tom Demaline of Willoway Nurseries and Cole Mangum of Bell Nursery in working with their representatives to make sure the needs of the horticulture industry are included in the next Farm Bill. “Our main goal is to maintain our research and innovation priorities.”
  • Plant health: AmericanHort is in constant communication with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on issues such as tissue culture imports and pest quarantines. “The Horticultural Research Institute is also looking for ways to rear natural enemies to boxwood tree moth from its native habitat.”
  • Political environment: “It will take all of us coming together to solve the problems we’re facing today, even though it seems harder than ever to do,” Regelbrugge said. “When it comes to important issues, the surest way to not get what you want is to not participate.” Speaking of that, be sure to join AmericanHort for Impact Washington in September!

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