Government affairs lets golf's voice be heard

The best way to impact turf industry issues? Getting involved in GCSAA's Grassroots Ambassadors program.


GCSAA's government affairs team at the national capitol building during National Golf Day
Members of GCSAA's staff and grassroots ambassadors at National Golf Day 2023. Photo by Soapbox Consulting

I had a chance to speak to the Chapter Delegates back in October, and it was a wonderful opportunity to talk about the impact that GCSAA and its members are having in the area of government affairs. The message really caught their attention, and so I wanted to share it to begin this exciting new year. 

The first issue I covered was the Endangered Species Act. All attention is on this at EPA. You use pesticides, and under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, you comply with what is on a pesticide label. In the future, you may also need to comply with new ESA restrictions. This means you will check your label and look for a statement that directs you to an online portal — Bulletins Live! Two

EPA has not complied with its ESA obligations for decades and has been sued repeatedly and now is trying to come into compliance with ESA before the courts take away chemicals. The clock is ticking.    

To come into compliance, EPA has drafted an ESA Work Plan and several pilot programs to protect species in an expedited way. Since last August, our team has been focused on one of the pilots that could affect 49 states — the Vulnerable Species Pilot. I encourage all GCSAA members to watch our ESA 101 webinar in My Learning Hub on to learn more about the proposed changes and how we are working with the agency to address golf’s needs. As the new year begins, our attention shifts to the Hawaii pilot that is on the table.  

I also talked to the delegates about our work on the H-2B visa program. We were successful in 2023 helping secure the highest number of visas for the program. The golf industry needs these visas. In FY 2019, golf requested 10,022 visas. In FY 2022, golf requested 15,160 visas. That is a 51% increase. Considering that only 66,000 visas are given out annually for all industries, that’s a significant number. Golf requested visas in 44 states. 

Finally, we shared with the delegates that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is considering developing an enforceable 1910 standard on heat stress that could change the way you operate your golf course. OSHA has prepared a regulatory framework that outlines potential options for the various elements of a potential heat injury and illness prevention standard and asked for feedback. Last fall, OSHA convened a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel. They asked our members to volunteer to weigh in on their proposal as Small Entity Representatives. Five GCSAA members talked to OSHA directly in September and answered specific questions about concepts being floated. They did an excellent job representing your interests, and we will likely see a formal proposal in 2024. 

We all know that in government affairs, if you are not at the table, you are on the menu. Consequently, I shared with the delegates the three most important things to focus on in 2024. These items help support the industry, the association and its members in profound ways. 

First, GCSAA members should watch our four webinars per year called Government Affairs Quarterly Briefings. If you attend the briefings live or watch the recording later, you will have a good idea of what is going on in government affairs throughout the year. It is an easy way to connect with us, stay informed and earn educational points. 

Next, the best way you can impact any issues is by getting involved in our Grassroots Ambassador program. We used to limit the program to one ambassador per congressional district, but there are no longer any limits. We need as many ambassadors as possible, so please sign up for the program. GCSAA members as grassroots ambassadors talk golf course management with members of Congress and their staffs and use site visits to show them around golf courses. These are the types of impactful meetings that move the needle on our issues. 

Finally, I could go on and on about our best management practices and their intersection with government affairs. I am not sure where we’d be without them. It is important to focus on BMPs as part of continuous improvement. From my small perch, I hope you personalize your facility manuals, set goals and work those BMPs into your day-to-day management. EPA has suggested on more than one occasion that some BMPs will become part of an enforceable pesticide label in the future.  

As always, thank you for your advocacy support, and let’s continue to work together to ensure golf’s future in 2024 and beyond. Cheers!

Chava McKeel, GCSAA’s director for government affairs, can be reached at 785-832-3619.