US: Floral pros ask congress for key measures to aid industry

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Floral professionals petitioned members of Congress to pass measures that will provide more affordable access to cut flowers, improve crop insurance for flower farms, and fund research that helps improve flower and plant quality and production.

Led by SAF Senior Lobbyist Joe Bischoff, PhD., and Associate Macey Hammerstrom, 13 retailers, wholesalers, growers, and importers met on Capitol Hill on March 19 for the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) first congressional fly-in of the year as part of its 2024 advocacy strategy.

“There’s nothing like hearing constituents tell their stories,” says Bischoff. “It’s one thing to hear from me, but when they hear directly from an industry member, they can really make that connection between the work that’s happening in floriculture and the people doing it.”

Participants visited 11 congressional offices, including those of Senator Marco Rubio and Representatives Marcy Kaptur, Adrian Smith, Dan Kildee, Mario Diaz-Balart, Gwen Moore, Henry Cuellar, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, Andreas Salinas, Scott Franklin, and John Carter.

In the meetings, the group focused on three legislative priorities: 1) Reauthorization of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which allows for duty-free imports from economically developed countries. (GSP authorization lapsed in December 2020, adding significant costs to businesses trying to recover from the economic impact of COVID and cope with inflationary pressures.) 2) Development of a national crop insurance program through the USDA’s Risk Management Agency for outdoor cut flower production, to help farmers protect their business from increasing risks due to extreme weather and wildfires. 3) An additional $1 million in funding for the Floriculture & Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI) to support research into mechanization, pest and disease mitigation and management, post-harvest optimization, and production efficiencies. (Through its advocacy efforts in 2022, SAF helped secure a $1 million increase in FNRI funding for fiscal year 2023. This year’s ask is for an additional $1 million for fiscal year 2025.)

After meetings with Rep. Kaptur, Dan Reilly of Jet Fresh Flowers in Miami said he felt good about the outcome.

“I thought they took well to our message, Reilly said, “It was a very informative process,” said Dan Reilly of Jet Fresh Flower Distributors in Miami, Florida.

Lottie McKinnon, of Teleflora, had a similar reaction after a meeting with Rep. Adrian Smith’s office. “It was awesome. (the legislative aide) was very engaged and interested in what we had to say… and definitely seemed like he wanted to help.”

Andrea Grist of Florasource KC in Overland Park, Kansas, said she was struck by “just seeing the whole process and how (Congress) works behind the scenes.”

Bischoff says the facetime with the industry will help him continue to make a case for our issues. “These conversations go a long way toward helping them really understand why these issues are so important to our industry’s businesses,” he said. “It really helps strengthen our case.”

The fly-in was the first of two to three events of its kind planned for the year. Future fly-ins will be planned for the most opportune times when advocacy is needed most on key issues.

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