For the second time in three years, I had the privilege of going to Washington, D.C., with friends representing the Allied Golf Group. This group is composed of the Georgia GCSA, Georgia State Golf Association, Georgia PGA, and Georgia Club Managers Association. The purpose of this trip was to make certain that some critical issues affecting the golf industry locally and nationally were on the radars of our Congressmen and Senators on Capital Hill.
We also wanted to tell the truth about the health of golf in Georgia and nationwide. We could not have touched so many legislators without the planning and leadership of Skin Edge, our lobbyist with Georgia Link. Over two days, Skin organized visits with 12 elected officials representing Georgia from the mountains to the coast. We are very fortunate to have had Edge helping us for nearly 13 years.
The four main topics discussed on the superintendent side of the business were Waters of the United States (WOTUS), H-2B Visa Program, Wage/Overtime Rule and the NPDES Pesticide Permit Fix.
The proposed 2015 WOTUS rule, known as the Clean Water Rule, has been temporarily stayed by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and all superintendents should urge federal decision makers to work with stakeholders like us at the state and local level to come up with a better rule.
This is an expansive rule of unnecessary permitting for water that includes rivers, lakes, tributaries, dry ditches and neighboring waters located within a 100-year floodplain and 1,500 feet of the original high water mark of any of the above mentioned bodies of water. As responsible stewards of water resources we would like to see the Trump Administration repeal and replace the Clean Water Rule. Georgia golf course superintendents have practiced best management practices for water conservation for more than 10 years and are currently drafting our water quality BMPs.
The H-2B visa program is vital to providing seasonal workers in the golf industry. This program provides seasonal workers for facilities that have exhausted all efforts to hire American workers for seasonal positions. Studies show that every H-2B position supports 4.6 American jobs by keeping businesses open that might otherwise have to close. In order for the golf work force to grow we must have access to an adequate workforce.
The NPDES Pesticide Permit Fix would negate the need for Clean Water Act NPDES permits for chemical spraying activities that are already made in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. EPA's rigorous registration and labeling process for pesticides already accomplishes what these permits seek to do. In other words, these permits create duplication and unnecessary additional paperwork.
The good story detailing the health of the game of golf was told by Matt Vanderpool, GSGA executive director, and Mike Paull, executive director of the Georgia PGA. There is a common misperception that golf is in a downward spiral, but the numbers say otherwise. In 2016, two and a half million people came in to the game of golf, one million more than the year before. Even though we still hear of golf courses closing, that number is less than one percent of the over 15,000 facilities nationwide.
In the state of Georgia, golf employs more than 60,000 people who earn wages and pay taxes. Ninety-eight percent of all golf carts in the world are made in Georgia. Golf is an important component in tourism, housing and fundraising, totaling a $5 billion economic impact to the Georgia economy. Thanks to programs like the Georgia PGA Junior League and The First Tee, the game of golf continues to promote positive values in young people such as honesty, integrity, and sportsmanship.
I know for certain that all of the Congressmen made time for us because of relationships we formed in 2015. They remember our faces and even stories from our previous visits and we appreciate their support of our issues. I encourage all of you to reach out and get to know the representative from your district. He or she wants to hear from you about how we can make things better in Washington and in Georgia. Things tend to move very slow in D.C. and that can become frustrating, but I truly believe good things are starting to happen under this administration.
The day we were there, the House passed the biggest tax reform in the nation's history that will hopefully help us in 2018. I appreciate the passion and love of this country that was evident as we sat down and talked about golf in Georgia.
GGCSA President Greg Burleson
Augusta Country Club Golf Course Superintendent