Chapter Resources

Green Industry Members Unite at NYSTA’s Turfgrass Advocacy Day 2006

If you ever wished you could walk straight in to your legislator’s office and discuss your feelings about legislation affecting your job as a golf course superintendent, then you should make it a point to attend NYSTA’s Turfgrass Advocacy Day.

One of the highlights of this event—now in its 6th year—is that attendees are able to meet, one-on-one, with state legislators representing their home districts to discuss regulatory issues and concerns related to their industry. At this year’s event, held at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY, on February 1, there were 50 legislative meetings spread among the 57 green industry professionals and educators attending the event.


Green industry leaders listen as NYSTA President, Michael Maffei, CGCS, presents the results of the New York State Turfgrass Survey at 2006 Turfgrass Advocacy Day.

All those who attended felt that their time was well spent and were grateful to have had the opportunity to spend quality time communicating directly with their legislators. One advocacy day participant was so pleased with the day’s activities that he wrote: “I have attended either four or five of your Turfgrass Advocacy Days and this year’s was the best. I felt a real sense of everyone being on the same page. My goal for next year is to bring at least two people who never attended.”

The “sense of everyone being on the same page” is no accident. The day before the Turfgrass Advocacy Day event, key chapter representatives from associations throughout the state were invited to attend a Focus Group Meeting with NYSTA leaders. The intent was to review the government and regulatory issues important to both groups and then prepare to address legislators as a united front with a single voice.

Roster of Speakers

Just as valuable was the special lineup of speakers. This year, the event kicked off with a presentation over breakfast from Lee Telega, senior extension associate with Cornell University and Jeff Williams, legislative director with the New York Farm Bureau. Their topic, “Legislative Climate and Budget Issues,” covered appropriations pertinent to the green industry, including Community IPM, the New York Farm Viability Institute, and funding for the Invasive Species Task Force. They also reviewed the impact that the upcoming elections will have on the budget process.

Following their talk, I had the opportunity to present the results of the New York Turfgrass Survey. If there’s one thing I’ve appreciated as president of NYSTA, it’s how chapter members have collaborated with our organization in conducting—and completing—this survey.

The goal of the survey was to document the amount of turfgrass acreage in New York and the economic value of turf, turf production, services, and expenditures. A letter signed by nine chapter presidents was mailed to hundreds of golf course superintendents in New York State urging them to complete the survey. As a result, the golf industry was properly documented, and it was determined that golf courses represent the second largest sector in turf maintenance expenses—second only to private residences. In the end, the New York Turfgrass Survey concluded that turf maintenance expenses, based on data taken in 2003, contributed more than $5 billion to the economy.

Steve Griffen, co-owner of Saratoga Sod Farm and NYSTA past president, was up next, presenting the objectives of the New York Farm Viability Institute, which is an important and exciting initiative to strengthen New York’s agricultural, food and green industries. He also discussed NYSTA’s effort to pass a $175,000 appropriation in the New York State Budget for the Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Fund. The money would allow grant requests to be made directly to industry representatives who could then prioritize research and education efforts. I’m pleased to report these initiatives were recently passed into law. The 2006 New York State budget includes $175,000 for the “services and expenses of the Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Fund” and $5 million for the New York Farm Viability Institute!

Steve’s presentation was followed by Chris Revere, a lobbyist for the New York Alliance for Environmental Concerns. He reviewed the status of legislation regarding the restricted use of certain pesticides for commercial lawn application, golf course application, and residential application for ornamental purposes or turf pest control. The New York State Assembly has referred this bill to the Department of Environmental Conservation. Chris also discussed NYSTA’s support of the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a way to help green industry professionals keep their pesticide use in check. At the same time, however, the organization does insist that environmental legislation and regulation be based on sound science

Next in the lineup was Larry Wilson, owner of Lawrence Landscape Design and chairman of the New York Alliance for Environmental Concerns. He discussed the role of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) with regard to safety inspections for trucks that transport turf-related products—e.g., sod and fertilizers—to green industry operations. He lobbied to have local enforcement agencies that are not certified by CVSA to be required to issue and honor the safety inspection decal of the CVSA and prevent undue delay and hardship to drivers and vehicle owners.

After this talk, Chris Revere offered helpful advice on “How to Be Effective Citizen Advocates,” which reviewed productive strategies for communicating with your legislator. He reviewed how to represent your organization, the importance of being prepared and leaving supporting documents, how to be a good listener, connecting with legislators who side with your issues, and making a good impression.

The group then broke for their legislative appointments and reconvened for lunch, where they heard from Senator Catharine Young, who expressed support for the Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Fund and the New York Farm Viability Institute initiatives.

According to George Pierpoint IV, president of the Hudson Valley GCSA, his attendance at NYSTA’s Turfgrass Advocacy Day 2006 was the best six hours he’d ever spent for the industry. “I had the opportunity to meet directly with the people who make the laws and decisions that affect us,” says George about his time well spent.

In the End

We received a lot of positive feedback from attendees this year. I strongly urge New York State GCSA members to attend this extraordinary event. According to Will Heintz, president of the MetGCSA, “NYSTA’s all-important Focus Group Meeting and Turfgrass Advocacy Day will have long-lasting, positive effects on the future of the turfgrass industry in New York State. I commend their leadership and staff for their tremendous efforts and urge all green industry members to participate.”

All who attended Turfgrass Advocacy Day 2006 felt privileged to have had the opportunity to work with legislators toward the goal of educating lawmakers and achieving sound environmental policies.

For more information on Turfgrass Advocacy Day 2006—or to link to the Lobby Day Issue Papers—you can log on to www.nysta.org.

 

Submitted by Michael Maffei, superintendent of Back O’Beyond, Inc., in Brewster, NY, is president of NYSTA.

The New York State Turfgrass Association is composed of 1,800 green industry professionals who have joined together to share technology, promote environmental stewardship, support education, advance research, and disseminate research findings. For more information, please call Denise Lewis, Public Relations Coordinator,
518-783-1229.

This article appeared in the June 2006 issue of Tee to Green and is reprinted with permission from the Metropolitan GCSA.


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