Saturday, February 28, 2009

New book says immigration benefits the U.S. economy

A new bestseller by Harry S. Dent, Jr., “The Great Depression Ahead,” makes some interesting observations about immigration, and how it benefits the U.S. economy.

In the book, published last year, he makes the point that, although immigration creates social costs, including the costs of health care and education (which critics are always quick to cite), on the whole it’s beneficial. Immigration brings mostly young, hard-working, productive people into the U.S. economy, he says. These immigrants, on average, add a net of $80,000 more in taxes over their lifetimes above these social costs. In addition, they’re an immediate boon to the areas to which they move because many of the things they consume — clothing, food, etc. — are bought locally, boosting consumer demand.

Save Small Business (SSB), a lobbying organization comprised of small businesses attempting to convince Congress to allow more H2B seasonal guest into the United States, held yet another Washington D.C. fly-in this past week. What does that make, seven or eight fly-ins these past several years? I’ve lost count. But SSB is determined to convince Congress that its members desperately need the guest workers. About 150 SSB supporters participated in the fly-in and urged their respective legislators to pass a bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to expand the H-2B program.

If history offers a lesson (and I think it does) it’s going to be very difficult for some members of Congress to speak out in favor of this proposal, especially now that times are tough and unemployment is rising. They’re not going to want to be perceived as supporting a measure that allows immigrants “to take jobs away from American workers” — even if few U.S. workers would even consider taking the arduous, low-paying jobs that H-2B workers typically fill.

If Mikulski’s proposal, which many senators and representatives have signed on to, isn’t adopted soon, chances are it won’t be for a very long time, if ever, given how unemployment keeps rising.

Similar scenarios have played out several times during the 20th Century in the United States. We’re all witness to the high levels of immigration into the United States during our nation’s boom years starting shortly after the 1991-1992 recession. But, few of us were around during the Great Depression of the 1930s when immigration stopped, and anti-immigrant sentiment bubbled into protest and, on moe than a few occasions, violence.

When times are good and business is booming, the U.S. government either passes laws to allow more immigration, or (the more recent 1990’s example) turns a blind eye to enforcement of immigration laws.

When the economy tanks and unemployment rises, Congress, responding to howls of protest that immigrants are taking jobs from U.S. citizens, tightens the borders and more strictly enforces immigration law. This is in spite of the continuing need for these mostly young immigrant workers who, Dent claims, add much more to the economy than they take from it.

You may not agree with the observations about immigration he makes in his book, but likely we can all agree that if employers paid higher wages for many of the jobs now done by immigrants, and U.S. workers did step up to do them, we would pay more for our our domestically grown vegetables and U.S.-processed chicken and seafood products, hotel stays and landscaping services.

How much more are we willing to pay for these and other services that immigrants do for us, who knows?

As for the book, "The Great Depression Ahead," if the author is right, we're in for a long, protracted deflationary period, perhaps three or four years. It's an interesting read, whatever your take on the economy and where it's going. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Should "People's Garden Project" be about veggies?

When U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack whipped out his trusty old jackhammer and started demolishing a slab of concrete in front of the USDA headquarters in honor of Lincoln’s Birthday recently, it’s not likely he envisioned the excitement, misunderstanding and coverage (on the blogosphere ini particular) that would follow.

Apparently, the ceremony and obligatory photo-op was meant to demonstrate the USDA’s commitment to sustainable landscaping. The press release issued by the USDA on Feb. 12 referred to the event as the establishment of “The People’s Garden Project,” which excited a whole lot of people who assumed somehow that the 1,250-sq.-ft. plot would be planted in an edible garden — vegetables and fruit trees, whose bounty would be donated to local food banks.

No, that wasn’t the intent at all, says the Feb. 12 the press release”

“The USDA People's Garden announced today will eliminate 1,250 square feet of unnecessary paved surface at the USDA headquarters and return the landscape to grass. The changes signal a removal of impervious surfaces and improvement in water management that is needed throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The new garden will add 612 square feet of planted space to an existing garden traditionally planted with ornamentals. The garden will showcase conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own backyards and green spaces. As a component of the garden, pollinator-friendly plantings will not only provide important habitat for bees and butterflies, but can serve as an educational opportunity to help people understand the vital role pollinators play in our food, forage and all agriculture. The garden plot is adjacent to the site of the USDA Farmer's Market.”

Will the garden be planted in grass and ornamentals, as originally planned, or in vegetables and fruit trees as a whole lot of people want?

That’s unclear, but there's a chance it will. Then again, maybe not. That's the take-home I got from reading the comments from the USDA on the blog Obama Foodorama (click on the headlne) that gave the ceremony and confusion resulting from the public’s perception of the concrete-bustin’ ceremony a pretty thorough going over recently.

Which would you like to see, traditional "sustainable" landscape of grass and ornamentals? Or vegetable and fruit garden on the USDA property? — Ron Hall

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Great new bio-herbicide on the way?

Biological control of weeds in turfgrass is the equivalent of the holy grail in lawn care, the reason why a new bio-herbicide from Scotts may be the next big thing. Karen L. Bailey, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon, and Scotts Canada are in the registration process for a product based on the fungus phoma macrostoma. The product will be granular and can be used as a pre-emergent and a post-emergent. When applied to the soil, the product blocks chlorophyll synthesis, which kills emerging seedlings and adversely affects established weeds.

Any effective and affordable biological herbicide would be welcomed with open arms, especially in Canada where much of the
country has banned the use of synthetic pesticides on landscapes by professional applicators.
This past season they got some help with the release of Sarritor, a biological developed by Dr. Alan Watson of McGill University.

The biological agent in this product is also a fungus. It was approved by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada in 2007.

Click on the headline to see the patent application for phoma macrostoma. —Ron Hall

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

PLANET Day of Service a great idea

If you're the owner or manager of a landscape, lawn care or irrigation service company, mark April 22 on your calendar. That's the day of the first-ever Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) Day of Service. What better time to do something worthwhile for your local community than during these tough economic times.

Think up some way to help — perhaps helping to fix up some ballfields, preparing beds for color plantings, a new fence around a city park, whatever. Your project doesn't have to be large. Get in touch with the local city manager or parks director and come up with something that needs to get done. Then, start planning and getting your team fired up about the project. You many even want to hook up with some friendly competitors in your neighborhood and double- or triple-team a larger project.

There's all kinds of information about the Day of Service on a special PLANET website (click on the headline) or go to —

The website has a list of the companies that have already signed on to do something for their communities. Click on the map, which is on the web site, and see which companies are getting involved. — Ron Hall

Monday, February 09, 2009

U.S. EPA — "No bad deed goes unrewarded"

American industry, including the Green Industry, is always hopeful that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency bases its policies and decisions on science and not politics.

Longtime observers of the EPA (in spite of what every incoming agency administrator promises) remain skeptical. For good reason, says Henry I. Miller, a physician and fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Miller, an official of the National Institute of Health and Food and Drug Administration from 1977-1994, wrote a scathing review of the EPA, which appears in the nationalreviewonline.

Says Miller, the EPA “has long been a haven for zealots in career positions and for scientifically insupportable policies . . . (with) a sordid history of incompetence, duplicity, and pandering to the most extreme factions of the environmental movement.”

Is the EPA likely to improve under the Obama administration with the recent appointment of Lisa Jackson at its head? Fat chance, believes Miller, who, in referring to Jackson’s appointment and the naming of former EPA chief Carol Browner to coordinate environmental policy throughout the government, comments — “No bad deed goes unrewarded.”

Click on the headline for the Henry I. Miller’s piece — “Environmental Protection, in Name Only” — and let us know if you agree or disagree with his assessment. — LM Staff