SHORT CUTS

PRESIDENT SIGNS H-2B CAP RELIEF

The American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) announced that President Bush signed H.R. 1268, the “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act” which provides funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This bill also contains the “Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act,” which would provide cap exemptions for service sector guest workers who participated in the H-2B visa program in any of the last three years.

“This legislation was made possible by the tireless grass roots efforts of ANLA members and other service sector employers,” said John Meredith, ANLA's director of Legislative Relations. According to Meredith, “this legislation rewards those firms relying on the only legal channel to obtain seasonal help.” The passage of the H-2B legislation means that employers will have access to a foreign labor “safety net” despite the 66,000-worker cap being hit in January of 2005. Employers depend on these seasonal workers to make up shortfalls in the domestic workforce.

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According to bill language, employers are able to file new H-2B visa petitions with the Immigration Service. Any worker who has had an H-2B visa in any one of the last three years will be exempt from the H-2B cap (this fiscal year and next). The burden of proof needed to certify that status will fall on the employer. There will be opportunities for new H-2B workers to come and work this year based on the number of exempt workers currently working in the program.

STEEL PRICES DROP

Structural steel prices have dropped more than $100 per ton since the beginning of 2005, reflecting a 20 percent decrease in the cost of material, according to the American Institute of Steel Construction. The current decrease in price, from a typical price of $618 to $510 per ton of wide flange, is primarily the result of lower scrap costs.

Major U.S. producers of structural steel significantly reduced mill prices of structural steel effective June 8. Inventory of structural material remains high and availability of structural steel is excellent from mills, warehouses and at local fabricators. The current inventory of structural steel exceeds one million tons and delivery to fabricators from warehouses can be accomplished in a matter of days.

ANLA AND PLANET CONSIDERING MERGER

The American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) and the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) have announced that the two associations are evaluating a possible merger. If adopted, this would be the second merger of national green industry associations in recent years. In 2004, PLANET was formed when the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) and the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) merged.

Combining PLANET and ANLA would result in a national association with annual revenues of more than $9 million and a staff of 48, a resource base that is larger than about 75 percent of all trade associations in the U.S. The combined membership of the two organizations would exceed 6,000.

“When PLANET was formed in 2004, our leadership hoped that it would be the first step in a process to expand the scope and capabilities of a single, larger national association for the industry,” explained Dan Foley, PLANET president. “These discussions with ANLA are an encouragement that ALCA and PLCAA were on to something.”

Both associations' boards of directors have agreed to sign a letter of intent to merge. Agreement by ANLA's delegate body, the ANLA Senate, is necessary for ANLA to move forward. If the ANLA Senate agrees at its meeting in July, then both organizations will begin a more formal and extensive evaluation. Depending on the evaluation's conclusions, a final vote to merge by PLANET members and the ANLA Senate — with ANLA member input — would occur sometime this fall. A merger would likely take place some time in 2006.

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