NYAFEC Gains Solid Foothold in Shaping New York Pesticide Policies

In just nine months, the New York Alliance For Environmental Concerns (NYAFEC) already is realizing the benefits of joining separate environmental horticultural industry groups together to pursue common goals and interests. NYAFEC consists of the Nassau/Suffolk Landscape Gardeners Association, NYS Lawn Care Association, NYS Nursery/Landscape Association, NYS Turfgrass Association (NYSTA), Professional Lawn Care Association of America, Professional Landscape Association of Rockland County, Brooklyn Landscape Gardeners Association, Metropolitan Golf Course Superintendents Association, Hudson Valley GCSA, Long Island GCSA,and the Northeastern GCSA.

The purpose of NYAFEC is to unite the individual efforts of these organizations to better coordinate activities, to educate lawmakers, policymakers and the public, to serve as a clearinghouse of information, to pursue legislative goals and actively participate in the regulatory process, and promote the many benefits derived from environmental horticulture.

"We have several important goals, but our immediate objective was to establish an effective, daily professional presence in Albany," says Larry Wilson, chairman of NYAFEC. "We are under constant political attack. We're not professional lobbyists; we don't necessarily understand the processes or know the players. It's important to have an effective team in Albany guiding us and protecting our flanks at all times."

NYAFEC hired The Vandervort Group, LLC to represent its interests before the state legislature and regulatory agencies, such as the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Attorney General. "We're very fortunate to have lobbyists with over 70 years of combined government expertise and solid relationships covering both ends of the political spectrum," said Daniel Van Starrenburg, president and CEO, Nature's Trees, Inc. "The caliber of their representation has made a big difference for us with legislators and policy makers. Our viewpoint is becoming understood and respected.”

Recent regulatory and legislative victories show NYAFEC's positive influence. After years of delay, a state rule regulating commercial lawn care practices was proposed last year. "The original draft rule would have been disastrous for lawn care companies and customers alike," noted Don Burton, president of the NYS Lawn Care Association, who along with other NYAFEC members, formed a working group in April 2002 to challenge the rule.

Burton helped coordinate a "grass roots" campaign that generated hundreds of letters and personal testimonials from companies and individuals from across the state in protest of the rule. NYAFEC also secured the support of more than three dozen state legislators, who signed a letter urging DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty to be mindful of maintaining a careful balance between industry, customers and the environment. The "revised" rule was approved by the state Environmental Board in July, containing several of the improvements NYAFEC had fought for over the prior fourteen months. The rule becomes effective January 1, 2004.

Tom Delaney, vice president of government affairs for the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA), says, "I'm proud that PLCAA was instrumental in getting these groups together and finding such effective representation in Albany. We know that what happens in New York has an effect in other parts of the country. Our challenge is to turn New York into a positive model for other states."

Membership in NYAFEC is open to all trade associations, co-operatives, organizations, firms and individuals engaged in environmental horticulture. Anyone interested in joining NYAFEC can reach Larry Wilson at NYAFEC@optonline.net

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