NYAFEC Gains Solid Foothold in Shaping NY Pesticide Policies

The New York Alliance For Environmental Concerns (NYAFEC) 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 (GCSA), 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,” said 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.”

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 became effective January 1, 2004.

“In the end, we were able to make the rule less intrusive on responsible business practices and less costly because DEC considered NYAFEC a credible partner, rather than an adversary,” said Burton. “The experience was collaborative and we have a personal commitment from the Commissioner that her agency will continue to work closely with us on future issues.”

The 2003 Legislative Session also marked the defeat of all significant pieces of legislation being pushed by environmental groups, such as bills allowing the enactment of local pesticide laws, or the creation of a state Urban Pesticide Board. In addition, the state Legislature restored the payment of pesticide applicator certification fees to an annual basis, thereby relieving businesses of a tremendous financial burden imposed in 2002.

NYAFEC also partnered closely with the NYS Farm Bureau and Council of Agricultural Organizations to restore research funding for Cornell University.

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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