Category Archives: Legislation

Neonic Update

Supporters of New Jersey’s Green Industry,

A bill is set to be put up for a vote in the State Assembly that will restrict neonicotinoid insecticide use to solely agricultural areas. Senate Bill 1016 and its pair, Assembly Bill 2070, will take a valuable tool away from professional licensed applicators working as landscape contractors, golf course superintendents, arborists, and anyone else who properly applies a neonicotinoid in New Jersey.

Current active ingredients on the market that would be restricted under this bill include: acetamiprid (Tristar), clothianidin (Arena, Aloft), dinotefuran (Safari, Zylam), imidacloprid (Merit, Avatar PLX, Triple Crown), and thiamethoxam (Meridian). None of these products will be available for sale in New Jersey if this bill passes.

National anti-pesticide groups are aiming to make New Jersey have the most restrictive neonic laws in the country, basing decisions on partial truths and activity in other parts of the world. They have promised legislators that the continued use of these products, even by professional applicators, will have detrimental effects on pollinators and the environment. The safe and responsible applicators in the State of New Jersey should not be the ones to pay for the agenda of these national groups.

The NJGIC is opposed to taking these tools away from professional licensed applicators who are properly trained and currently using these products in a safe, responsible manner, following an IPM plan and the product label. We do not agree that continued use of these products is going to have adverse effects on the environment or wildlife in New Jersey and to make such assumptions is an overreach of what is scientifically accepted. It is our goal to let the neonic class of insecticides be classified as restricted use and allow Certified Pesticide Applicators in New Jersey the ability to continue to use these products where needed.

Our lobbying firm, State Street Associates (SSA), has been working diligently, providing information to the main bill sponsor, Senator Bob Smith, who is a key player in having the bill amended. Members of NJGIC and SSA have testified before multiple committees to make our case in Trenton and Dr. Cristi Palmer from Rutgers represented our interests in a small science-based meeting with the Senator. While we are optimistic that a compromise can be reached with the Senator and we will see a version of the bill that we can work with, it is time to make alternative plans so we will be able to react quickly if things don’t move forward as we hope.

If our talks with the Senator stall, we are going to need you: our members, allied associations, and affected parties in the State to reach out to your local Assembly representative and tell them the effect this bill would have on your business. Licensed applicators in New Jersey are trained professionals and are not over-applying or misusing products to the detriment of the environment. Through the continued use of IPM plans and best management practices, these products can continue to be safely used throughout the State.

This is a very fluid situation and we will keep all parties up to date as we move forward. If the time comes when further action is needed we will continue to support the industry, supplying the names and contact information of key representatives who you can reach out to as well as email form letters that can be quickly filled out and sent to your local representative. Together we make sure the voice of the Green Industry in New Jersey is heard.

Thank you for your support and please do not hesitate to reach out to NJGIC with any questions. If you are not currently supporting the NJGIC, please consider doing so by becoming a member or making a donation at www.NJGIC.org. Issues in New Jersey continue to keep us busy and strain our resources. Your support makes a difference to ensure our continued representation in Trenton advocating on behalf of New Jersey’s Green Industries.

 

Keith Bennett, CGCS
President, NJGIC

Resources:
Senate Bill S-1016
Assembly Bill A-2070
Further information can be found at www.njgic.org

DOL Announces Lottery for H-2B Processing

Roy Maurer
March 4, 2019

Employers that want to hire seasonal guest workers with H-2B visas will now have to go through at least two separate lotteries to employ them.

Beginning July 3, the Department of Labor (DOL) will change its procedures for processing H-2B applications for labor certi¹cation. Visa applications will be randomly ordered for processing based on the date of filing and the start date of work requested. Employers with certified petitions will then likely enter another lottery held by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Labor certi¹cation ensures that employers are not displacing or negatively impacting the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers and must be obtained before employers can petition USCIS for visa approval.

The DOL’s labor certification processing is currently conducted on a first come, first served basis—timed down to the millisecond—and coupled with the limited number of visas available, that process created an incentive for employers to file their applications as early as possible. But that experiment, begun in 2018, led to the DOL’s O¾ce of Foreign Labor Certi¹cation’s electronic filing system crashing Jan. 1 due to “unprecedented demand.”

The DOL attempted the process “to promote fairness in response to the unprecedented volume of applications” the agency received. It decided that sequentially assigning H-2B applications to analysts based on the calendar date and time on which the applications were received, measured to the millisecond, better re¼ected the order in which applications were filed.

On Jan. 1, the agency received 5,276 applications for more than 96,400 workers, nearly three times the 33,000 visas available for the spring and summer seasons. Five minutes after filing had opened, there were nearly 23,000 login attempts—30 times the number of users the previous year.

“Because of the intense competition for H-2B visas in recent years, the department’s technology and available sta· resources have been challenged to handle the increasingly large volume of H-2B applications ¹led on Jan. 1 of each year,” the DOL said.

Starting with the next ¹ling period July 3, the DOL will randomly select for processing those applications that have a worker start date on the earliest possible date for the season—either Oct. 1 or April 1—and were received during the firrst three calendar days of the ¹ling period. After the first three days, applications will be chosen at random for processing each day.

[Visit SHRM’s resource page on workplace immigration (www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/Pages/workplace-immigration.aspx).]

From Lottery to Lottery

USCIS has begun to hold a lottery of its own because of the extent to which demand for visas for seasonal workers has outpaced supply in recent years.

The agency announced Feb. 22 that it had conducted a lottery for the 33,000 H-2B visa petitions for the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2019. The agency first held a visa lottery last year.
What Will DHS Do?

To address chronic labor shortages, Congress in February gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to more than double the number of H-2B visas available through the end of FY 2019. The number of visas could increase from 66,000 to 135,000.

DHS authorized an additional 15,000 visas when granted the authority the last two years. Yet another lottery was held for those visas, and employers had to prove they would face severe economic harm without the access to foreign labor.

Trump Administration Nears Release of New Overtime Proposal

The Wall Street Journal
By Eric Morath
Jan.10, 2019

WASHINGTON—The Labor Department sent its proposed overtime rule to the White House for review, which could allow the regulation determining how many Americans are entitled to extra pay when working more than 40 hours to be finished by late this year. The department has sent the rule to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, an arm of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, two administration officials said. That is typically a sign the regulation is close to a public unveiling.

Businesses and labor groups are carefully following developments on the rule because, depending the details, it could make millions more Americans eligible for extra pay. That potentially puts more money in workers’ pockets, but raises costs for businesses.

The Labor Department hasn’t released specifics on its proposal.

Many businesses pay overtime to hourly workers but often exempt managers and other salaried employees from additional pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. But the Labor Department sets a salary threshold, below which, in most cases, a worker must be paid time-and-half regardless of their role in the firm.

In testimony to Congress, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has said he was in favor of lifting the annual salary threshold from the $23,660 level set in 2004. The Labor Department, in its July 2017 request for public input on the regulation, asked whether updating the 2004 salary level for inflation would be an appropriate basis for setting the standard salary level. If that were to occur, the new annual threshold would be about $32,000.

In the final year of President Obama’s administration, the department completed a rule to raise the threshold salary to $47,476. That rule sought to adjust the level every three years. The department estimated in 2016 that the rule would have made 4.2 million more Americans eligible for overtime pay.

Many Republicans and business groups opposed the rule, and in December 2016 federal judge halted it from being implemented after states and businesses sued. That Texas judge later struck down the rule, and the Trump administration began working to rewrite it.

In its 2017 request for information, the Labor Department raised concerns that an increased salary threshold could have adverse effects on parts of the country where people earn less. It asked whether salary levels should be set by geographic region, metro areas and employer size. That raised the possibility the department would propose a menu of standards rather than a single national level.

The questions around inflation were interpreted by observers as opening the door to indexing thresholds to price changes—something that wasn’t done when the rule was last reset, during the George W. Bush administration.

Mr. Acosta has signaled sympathy to increasing the level with the cost of living.

“I think it’s unfortunate that rules involving dollar values can go more than a decade without adjusting,” he said in testimony to Congress in 2017. “Life does get more expensive.”

Sending the proposal to the White House this month could put the administration on schedule to finalize the rule late this year, said Heidi Shierholz, the former chief economist at the Labor Department. She was involved in crafting the prior administration’s policy.

However, she said, it’s likely the new rule could be challenged in court, potentially delaying any implementation.

Another wrinkle: The regulatory affairs office receiving the department’s proposal is affected by the partial government shutdown, so it’s unclear how quickly personnel there can begin working on the rule.

Beekeeper Notification Legislation

Keith Bennett, CGCS
Grass Roots Turf Products, Inc.

There have been a lot of questions asked regarding the beekeeper notification legislation.  Below is a set of guidelines that will hopefully help detail some of the responsibilities of the pesticide applicator and help them to navigate through the requirements of the legislation.

1) Read the legislation. It is not long and has information that you should be aware of.  Two examples being an exemption for applications less than 3 acres and provisions for emergency applications. It can be found at this link: http://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/pcp/regulations/Subchapter%209.pdf 

2) Have a pollinator plan in place and be prepared to share it with beekeepers in your area. This can be as simple as creating a policy to not spray weeds while flowering and not spraying in high winds where spray may drift into non-target areas. These management practices can greatly decrease the chance that pollinators will be affected and may be practices that are already utilized. Explaining these policies to beekeepers may help to correct the perception that many lay people have regarding the dangers of chemical applications.

3) Find your local beekeepers and reach out to them. Look through the state list of registered beekeepers and figure out who is within 3 miles of the application site. If there is doubt whether a beekeeper falls within the range or not, err on the side of caution and add them to your contact list. Sifting through the list and determining who falls within your contact zone will be the most challenging and tedious part of the entire process. A link to the list follows: http://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/pcp/bpo/2017DEPNotificationList.xlsx

Once you have formulated a list, reach out to each beekeeper individually for an initial introduction. Explain who you are, what you do, and what your plan is to keep their pollinators safe. If the beekeepers choose to not be contacted prior to each regulated application, there is a standard waiver detailed in the beekeeper legislation that stays in effect until withdrawn by the beekeeper.

Inform your beekeepers that they will be notified via email prior to all applications in accordance with the legislation. This is generally the most convenient of approved methods of communication and provides a documented history in case any questions arise later.

4) Read your labels! Notification is only needed for products that are labeled to be toxic to bees. In general this includes all your commonly used insecticides. Note that granular insecticides are not labeled as toxic to bees and therefore do not require notification.

5) Notify everyone on your list at least 24 hours prior to applications in accordance with the legislation. As mentioned earlier, there are provisions to include emergency applications that may arise. Set up all your apiarists on a group email. This will save time prior to  applications, especially if you have a lot of hives around you. Be sure to include all recipient email addresses as a blind carbon copy (BCC). BCC’s hide who is on the email list and make it impossible for someone to send a message back to all other recipients.