Public Policy & Advocacy - Issues

TCIA's mission as a trade association is to advance tree care businesses. One of the primary ways to protect and advance the industry is by influencing public policy in a direction favorable for our members.


Small Business & Entrepreneurism

  • Licensure – State and local licensure laws, when properly drafted and enforced, can help our industry by protecting consumers and ethical tree care practitioners against unscrupulous and unsafe companies. In 2016, TCIA provided input before the promulgation of the Licensed Tree Expert law in New Jersey. TCIA's comments convinced the NJ Board of Tree Experts that prospective licensees should essentially get "credit" for using commonly used and popular programs such as TCIA's Accreditation, its Illness & Injury Prevention Program, or Tailgate Safety.
  • Voluntary certification – In the absence of, or in combination with State and local licensure laws, voluntary certifications help assure tree care consumers that the company they hire will follow accepted standards of business and arboricultural practice. Accepted credentials such as TCIA Business Accreditation, ISA Certified Arborist and Certified Treecare Safety Professional as well as others are administered by third parties to insure the credentials’ integrity. For the present, TCIA is making its voice heard on State-level issues that would undermine the activities or recognition of certifications developed or offered by non-governmental, private certification organizations by participating in the Professional Certification Coalition.

Hiring & Employment

  • H-2B Visa – The overall issue of immigration reform is complex with no easy answers, but one part of it should be straightforward and uncontroversial. Tree care companies need more willing, able and carefully vetted employees. Our industry is facing a huge labor shortage. The H-2B Visa program for seasonal guest workers brings carefully screened, willing workers into the U.S. temporarily to find gainful employment. Employers seeking H-2B workers must show that it cannot find U.S. workers capable of performing the job and that granting the visa will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Right now, the annual quota for H-2B Visas is filled in early February, and the process of obtaining a Visa is too costly and time-consuming. We need reform to this proven program.
  • Arborist apprenticeship – A growing number of arborist apprenticeship programs around the country afford the opportunity for young people, military veterans and those changing careers to learn a trade while they earn a decent living. They need the support of local sponsoring companies and educational institutions. TCIA developed the national standard for an arborist apprenticeship and supports organizations who seek to become sponsors.
  • E-Verify – Congress should create/maintain safe harbors for employers that act in good faith while using the E-verify system and preempt state and local laws to streamline the process for employers.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook – The arborist profession is characterized in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) in such a way that most high school guidance counselors, curriculum developers or parents would never read past the description. We want the American public to see there is a skilled trade, even a profession, hidden within this dreary classification of unskilled workers with no formal training performing difficult manual labor while earning $12.31 an hour. We are coming up on an opportunity. The OOH is revised every two years. BLS released its 2016–17 edition of the OOH on December 17, 2015. It is one of the nation’s most widely used sources of career information. It provides details on hundreds of occupations and is used by career counselors, students, parents, teachers, jobseekers, career changers, education and training officials, and researchers.
  • Cannabis Laws by State – Across the country, state cannabis policy can vary greatly. Eleven states, such as Massachusetts, Colorado, and Illinois have legalized the drug and allow licensed stores to sell it. Other states default to the Federal Government’s position that cannabis is a schedule one drug and treat it as such. This does not even begin to get into the many states which allow the medical use of cannabis, with various stances on the rights of the employer vs. the employee.

    With little hope for guidance from the Federal Government on the horizon, TCIA members should be prepared to operate with different laws in all 50 states for the foreseeable future. Members should familiarize themselves with the cannabis laws in each state they operate in (see below) and consult with an attorney if they have any questions. If you have any questions about the cannabis laws in your state, or if you hear about a law that may impact your business, please contact Aiden O’Brien at TCIA today!

    Aiden O’Brien, Advocacy & Standards Manager can be reached at

    You can view the cannabis laws in your state here. Note: this is intended as a reference guide only.

Worker Safety

  • OSHA Separate Standard – Currently no guidance exists that establishes specific safety measures for the tree care industry, one of the most hazardous in the country. Right now, the industry must abide by a patchwork of outdated and/or extraneous regulations intended for other industries, often resulting in employees being exposed to serious dangers in the workplace. A separate standard would educate both the regulated community as well as the regulators to help bring about a safer work environment for arborists. TCIA is currently pursuing an arborist rule on the federal level. About half of the States have “State Plan” OSHAs, and a handful of them have promulgated unique worker safety rules. TCIA has had success bringing about responsible OSHA in some States:
      1. We have worked with Cal/OSHA on two occasions to extensively revise Article 12 work rules specific to arboriculture.
        In Virginia, we assembled a coalition of members to serve on an advisory committee. That committee drafted a comprehensive VOSH arborist standard that went into effect in 2011.
        In Maryland, we again pulled a member coalition together to help MOSHA write a comprehensive rule they implemented in 2012.
  • Grant-Funded Training – For many years the tree care industry has benefited from free safety training workshops organized by TCIA and funded through OSHA Susan Harwood training grants. Over time, the Susan Harwood program has impacted literally thousands of arborists. Funding for this program is tenuous from year to year. For example, in the lead-up to the final legislation that will fund federal agencies for fiscal year 2019, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill that would preserve Susan Harwood at a flat funding lever, whereas the counterpart bill in the House as well as the President’s proposed budget seek to eliminate the program.

Driver/Vehicle Fitness

  • Hours of Service – TCIA actively sought and in 2005 obtained an “Hours of Service” (HOS) exemption for our industry. On August 10, 2005 President Bush signed into law H.R. 3 - Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users containing an exemption for drivers of utility service vehicles (USVs) from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) HOS regulations.

    The HOS exemption includes all of 49 CFR Part 395, and since Part 395 contains the actual HOS requirement as well as a logbook requirement, the exemption from Part 395 means an exemption from both the HOS and logbook requirements. In other words, there is no need to keep track of something that no longer applies.

    Most of TCIA’s non-line clearance members are already exempt from HOS through other provisions, such as the so-called short haul provision, the 100 air-mile provision and the 16-hour exception.

Arboriculture & Urban Forestry

  • Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC) - Our nation’s 100 million acres of urban forests are vital to creating and maintaining healthy, livable communities of all sizes. Urban trees and forests provide a wide array of scientifically proven social, economic, and environmental benefits to people living in urban areas. Today, more than 83 percent of the Nation’s population lives in urban areas. Studies have demonstrated urban forests enhance air and water quality, reduce energy use, increase property values, and provide quantifiable health and wellness benefits to people. Creating and maintaining a healthy tree canopy also creates a substantial demand for green collar jobs in a sector poised for rapid growth. The Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC) represents more than 30 nonprofits and national associations of foresters, nursery and landscape professionals, public works professionals, city planners, arborists, water resource groups, and many others. These diverse organizations and their members monitor, care and advocate for sustainable urban trees and green infrastructure. Decision makers should realize the a relatively small investment of tax dollars toward SUFC-recommended programs will result in a positive ROI through matching funds, preventive measures and community health and welfare benefits received by over 80 percent of Americans.
  • Pre-notification rules – So-called pre-notification rules for pesticide application require the applicator to notify abutting property owners in advance when pesticides will be applied to a customer’s property. Such rules are meant to protect sensitive persons from pesticide exposure, but they must be carefully drafted to allow the judicious use of safe products for the control of key ornamental tree, shrub and turf pests.
  • Pesticides & Pollinators – There is no question that bees and other pollinators are vital to U.S. Agriculture, to our economy and to our very health and well-being. When there is even a perceived threat to pollinator populations it must be taken very seriously and researched thoroughly until facts replace perception. It’s easy to think that we should err on the side of caution, and that is how some view the restriction or outright banning of neonic pesticides, but such decisions also carry strong, unintended consequences. This is an issue that has been highly politicized to everyone’s detriment. As stewards of the environment, arborists know that sound environmental decisions must be based on science and fact.
  • Invasive Tree Pests – Throughout U.S. history, all of the most calamitous, most expensive, most ecologically impactful agents of tree mortality have been invasive pests, introduced from outside the U.S. TCIA strives to make regulators realize that commercial arborists must be treated as partners in efforts to eliminate or control the spread of invasive species.

Tell Us Your Issue(s)

  • Drop us an email at Make sure you type something in the subject line, and please provide your name and the name of the organization you work for and let the VFT-PAC know what issues are affecting your business.