Chapter Resources

Western Washington GCSA finds a seat at the lobbying table

In 1998, Steve Kealy, CGCS, Glendale Country Club, received an unexpected phone call. Heather Hansen, executive director of Washington Friends of Farms & Forests (WFFF), asked if Steve had heard that the city of Seattle was considering restrictions and guidelines on pesticide use. Hansen wondered if Steve would be interested in attending a meeting with the WFFF and the city to discuss their positions on pesticide restrictions. Steve knew that by joining forces with the WFFF, legislators were likely to learn more about the golf course industry. The Western Washington GCSA joined forces with the WFFF and had a seat at the lobbying table with a very powerful group.

Washington Friends of Farms & Forests

The WFFF was formed to represent all users of pesticides in agriculture, structural applicators, and the top commodities in the state of Washington are represented – apples, wheat, dairy, cattle, cherries, etc. The WFFF offers numerous educational events each year to inform legislators and the public on the benefits of responsible pesticide use. When the Western Washington GCSA (WWGCSA) joined WFFF, it created an urban presence to the membership.

“While the tree and lawn care industries have always been active in WFFF, until Steve’s involvement, we didn't have a strong golf presence. By having the golf industry involved in our association, we have access to a different group of legislators – a more urban group. This gives us a broader network to lobby from,” Hansen explained.

We are no longer on an island by ourselves

The relationship between the WWGCSA and the WFFF has proven to be a great benefit. The WFFF has enabled the WWGCSA and the golf industry to have their voices heard. For example, the state of Washington had banned the used of Clopyralid, a commonly used pesticide on golf courses. When grass is treated with Clopyralid, and then the grass clippings are turned into compost, the Clopyralid is still active. When people plant beans, peas and tomatoes in the compost, the active Clopyralid will kill the young plants. The anti-pesticide activists used this issue to rally around Clopyralid’s removal from the market.

The state heard testimony from the Wheat Growers Association about the detrimental effect this would have on their industry. The state agreed to grant the wheat growers an exemption, but would keep the ban in place for most other agricultural and landscape industries, including golf courses. The president of the Wheat Growers Association advocated for the golf industry personally. The state has subsequently allowed golf courses to continue using Clopyralid. “We are no longer on an island by ourselves,” Kealy remarked.

What can other chapters do?

Steve encourages chapters to be open to groups outside of the golf industry, especially if agriculture is a big force in your state. “Your chapter can join one of these groups for not a lot of money, but it sure does pay off in the end,” Kealy said.

Submitted by Stephen A. Kealy, CGCS.

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