ANLA Addresses Senate on Green Industry Energy Concerns

On June 23, ANLA had a timely opportunity to provide valuable insight to the U.S. Senate as it considered comprehensive energy legislation. At a Senate-targeted press conference, ANLA member Kevin Warhurst, of Merrifield Garden Center in Virginia, spoke on the major concerns of the green industry regarding increasing energy costs facing garden centers, landscape companies, greenhouse and nursery growers from coast to coast.

Warhurst commented on the impact of spiraling energy costs on green industry businesses -- on everything from heating greenhouses using natural gas, to transportation costs and shipping surcharges for plants and related supplies, right down to the costs of production of plastic pots and trunk liners. An additional, though less obvious, concern is the reduction in consumers’ discretionary income for home and garden improvements when it costs more and more to fill up their cars or heat their homes.

Natural gas costs were a central theme of the press conference, and Warhurst shared the experience of Bordines, a prominent midwestern retailer-grower that heats over 1,000,000 square feet of greenhouse space. With the cost of natural gas going up more that 22 percent in just a year, and unable to increase prices accordingly, Bordines has scrambled to cut usage through conservation, such as installing heat retention curtains. Looking to 2006, if nothing is done, the costs are expected to rise another 20 percent, leaving growers with little choice but to cut back production or eliminate some crops altogether.

“The rising cost of energy is easily among the most significant issues facing green industry businesses today” says Buzz Bertolero, of San Francisco Bay area retailer Navlet’s Garden Centers, and president-elect of ANLA. “It is critical that independent retailers and landscape businesses -- which sometimes don’t seem fully aware of how things that happen in Washington affect them -- have a voice promoting common sense solutions to real world problems.”

Warhurst also took the opportunity to ask Congress, on behalf of the green industry, to consider extending Daylight Savings time to begin a full month, if not more, earlier in the springtime (and ending later in the fall), which would add valuable retail sales during evenings at the critical beginning of the spring selling season. “Extending the selling season is an easy win for Congress and our industry,” adds Bertolero. “The future of the independent garden center industry depends on our ability to work together, including on legislation that could help or hurt our businesses.”

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