Monday, January 22, 2007

We don't recommend you try this

Granted the Internal Revenue Service tax code is long, complicated and best left to those green-shaded, pasty accountant types. But that's not to say we don't apreciate the, shall we say, "creative" deductions some business owners attempt.

Jay MacDonald of reported this among his list of the nine oddest write-offs:

"A landscaper who was under audit with the IRS had deducted the expense of their dog because he would pull the wagon on landscaping jobs. They felt he was out there helping. He may have been listed as an independent contractor."

For the complete list of unconventional deductions click here.

Friday, January 19, 2007

ServiceMaster's pricey new digs

Fox News in Memphis is reporting that ServiceMaster, parent company of TruGreen ChemLawn, Terminix and Merry Maids is building a new $122 million headquarters two miles from the FedEx World Headquarters in Memphis. The company announced this past fall that it was moving its headquarters from Downers Grove, IL, (Chicago), to Memphis, which has been the site of its residential services business for several decades. Fox News says the move will bring about 500 new jobs to Memphis.

Big government strikes again

In it's never ending struggle to make the world a safer place it seems the Environmental Protection Agency delivered a dumbfounding ruling, one which might have saved billions of dollars of damage to citrus plants following the recent freeze in California.

It seems, at least according to the former head of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Biotechnology Henry I. Miller, that a simple gene alteration in a naturally occurring bacterium already in the fruit might limit the damage from a freeze. Because the bacterium contain a protein that promotes frost damage, removing the gene might, thus limiting or prevent frost damage, could result. But scientists were never allowed to test for it. They considered the original bacterium a pest so the altered bacterium became a pesticide.

For more information on the ice-minus issue, please click here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An easy target?

Sometimes, when we've come across a news story about a landscaper being robbed or worse, most of the time it's a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, it looks like landscape companies may have to be wary of even the people who hire them. According to this article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, "A landscaper in Clayton County was shot six times Sunday when he showed up for what he thought was a grass-cutting job, police said. When Pho Le, 60, owner of Le’s Landscaping, arrived at the Owens Trail house, he was shot in the abdomen and five times in the right leg by two men who hired him to cut grass, police said."
The thieves' motive was robbery. They had met Pho Le previously and paid him in advance to show up to do the landscaping. When he showed up, they tried to steal his truck, but dropped the keys as he escaped, according to the story. No arrests have been made.
— Mike Seuffert

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lock it and secure it or lose it

Contractors are so busy thinking about the next sale or the next day's operations they too often neglect to protect what they've got. If you haven't been hit by a professional thief, consider yourself very lucky — to this point, at least. Equipment and tools taken from shop areas and construction sites is a multi-billion dollar business. Common thieves (if there is such a thing), meth or crack addicts, or pros that know what they're doing? Bad guys come in many flavors.

Police are looking for whoever it was that ripped off Stone Ferris Lawn Care, Cape Coral, FL, earlier this month. Owner Robert Ferris told authorities somebody hauled off about $42,000 of his lawn maintenance equipment. He figures thieves have stolen $200,000 of his equipment over the years.

He wants the city council to give him a variance to put up a fence. But many landscapers have discovered that even fences can't keep out some thieves. A favorite target these days is compact equipment. Where it goes and who ends up with is anybody's guess. Most of it is never recovered, we're told.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

An "add-on" service opportunity to avoid

"The best thing that could be for this man is that he gets locked up because if I ever run into him he's going to wish he was locked up." So said a burglary victim at the sentencing of the thief who broke into his home.

A landscaper on Oahu (Hawaii), who cased out homes to burglarize while he was on the job, got 10 years in the slammer. Not enough claimed victims. Already charged with three break-ins and out on bail, he struck again. And was caught again, reported television station KHNL.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Revenge of the mole

Moles can be a serious and frustrating problem, but some things are just better left to the professionals. In a scenario reminiscent of Bill Murray in Caddyshack, man in Germany annoyed with his lack of success in getting rid of the invaders, escalated his attack. It cost him his life.

For more on the story, click here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Sometimes, and I only mean sometimes - when I'm feeling particularly generous - I feel sorry for the EPA. At least, as sorry as you can feel for a massive government bureaucracy. The EPA is constantly being attacked on all sides — by environmentalists who don't think the agency is doing enough, and by chemical manufacturers who think there is too much government intrusion into their work and products. And I think most of us can relate to the feeling of being pulled in two directions at once. Anyway, here are a couple recent news articles concerning the EPA and the use of pesticides that could impact how lawn care operators do business.

EPA facing new lawsuits over pesticide use
EUGENE, Ore. – The Environmental Protection Agency is facing an onslaught of lawsuits from both the pesticide industry and environmental activists, over a new rule on pesticide use in or near water. Lawsuits have been filed in 11 of the nation's 13 circuit courts, including the 9th Circuit, which serves Oregon. Environmentalists say the EPA has knowingly violated a court decision in an Oregon case that would have meant fewer pesticides flowing into Oregon rivers. Pesticide manufacturers counter the new rule doesn't do enough to protect them from unnecessary and costly government regulation.
Read the complete story from the Seattle Times here.

EPA asked to crack down on natural pesticides
Currently, the EPA does not regulate "minimum-risk" pesticides produced from natural products such as peppermint oil, licorice, garlic, lemon grass and thyme that are "generally recognized as safe." As long as labels do not make a specific health claim or list a specific disease that a targeted bug or other pest may carry, the EPA doesn't require marketers to prove that the substances work. The Consumer Specialty Products Association, whose members include manufacturers of conventional chemical pesticides, sent the EPA a petition in March arguing that a product that claims to kill or repel a pest known to carry a disease is making a health claim, even if its label does not specifically refer to the disease.
Read the complete story from the Palm Beach Post here.

Oregon's pesticide reporting system takes root
In the first week of the state's new program to collect pesticide-use information, almost 20 people filed reports. The Pesticide Use Reporting System, established in 1999 but funded for the first time in 2005, aims to provide information about what pesticides are being used in Oregon, in what quantities, and generally where they are being applied. The state estimated that the system will track about 8 million reports of pesticide applications per year from 123,000 pesticide users across the state. "Having access to information about environmental hazards, in this case where pesticides are applied, we are hoping we might see use patterns to help us inform our health surveillance," said Lori Barck of the environmental and occupational epidemiology program at Oregon's Public Health Division.
Read the complete story from the Statesman Journal here.

— Mike Seuffert

Friday, January 05, 2007

School of hard knocks a great teacher

Check out this “school” if you're short of help and looking for an employee with some Green Industry knowledge - the school of hard knocks.
The Associated Press, reporting in the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, reported on a program at the Southeastern Correctional Institute in Lancaster, OH, that trains inmates for careers in the Green Industry. (When they get out, of course.)
One former student got a job as a golf course superintendent, another was recently promoted to landscape designer and two others started their own contracting businesses, according to the article. It went on to describe how one “graduate”, in prison four times, got two job offers within days of being released.
Our hat is off to retired horticulture instructor Tom Ramsey, who leads the program and says some of his pupils keep in contact with him to let him know how they're doing.