It has become a tradition.
As soon as Valentine’s Day is behind them, a team of American flower and greens farmers set their sights on Washington, D.C. The annual effort of meeting with members of Congress and their staff early in the new year has become a priority tradition in order to raise the profile for America’s flower-farming families on Capitol Hill.
This year, our delegation included flower and greens farmers from seven states; Alaska, California, Iowa, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia and Washington state.
Each year, we hold a mandatory dinner meeting that includes speakers and an “issues briefing” to help prepare our farms for their meetings on the Hill. This year, we invited Damian Paletta, the Washington Post reporter who was responsible for the front cover, above-the-fold article titled, “In Rose Beds, Money Blooms,” that was published in the Sunday edition prior to Valentine’s Day. It was fascinating to hear the backstory on why he wrote the story on roses and specifically about his travels to Colombia and Miami.
Craig Regelbrugge of AmericanHort also provided our farms with the latest on immigration reform. Certified American Grown is a executive committee member of the Agricluture Immigration Reform Coalition (AIRC). Regelbrugge manages AIRC and he walked us through all of the political and practical challenges of H.R. 4760, known as the “Securing America’s Future Act.”
The next 36 hours was filled with meetings, meetings, meetings.
Our delegation participated in over 30 meetings with members of Congress and their staff requesting support for America’s flower farmers, lobbying for comprehensive immigration reform, the reinstatement of the annual NASS floriculture report, addressing issues with current trade policy and encouraging this administration to adopt the tradition of featuring American Grown Flowers in the White House.
And for the second year, our farms attended a reception hosted by the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus and the Wine Caucus. Members of Congress and their staff attended a fun, flower-filled evening discussing the value of our domestic flowers and wine. This reception is a wonderful pairing, reflecting the beauty and bounty of American agriculture.
After a trip like this, we have a lot of follow up, new opportunities to pursue and relationships to build on. None of this is possible without the support and participation of our farms. Active and regular engagement in Washington is increasingly necessary as we continue to highlight the value America’s flower farmers bring to their community and the economy.
One of our meetings was with USDA NASS. We had the opportunity to meet with NASS Administrator Hubert Hammer. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss NASS’s decision to suspend the Annual Floriculture Report. We learned a lot from this meeting and our delegation walked away with a deeper appreciation for what NASS does to account for agriculture. Our request was to have the Annual Floriculture Report reinstated and we reported to NASS that we were working with members of Congress to address the funding issues that have resulted in the suspension of our annual report.
We also discussed how important it is that our flower farmers participate and complete their Ag Census survey. That survey becomes a guiding document for USDA programs, funding and aligning priorities within the department (like when budgets get tight or cut). Therefore, it’s really important that our farms complete the Ag Census. If you didn’t get a number issued to you from NASS, you can register to receive one.
If you’re interested in learning more about our annual trip or would like to plan to join us next year, contact me. It would be great to have you join us on the Hill.