While attending an event last week in Salinas, California, a member of the Society of American Florists’ board of directors got some valuable facetime with Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.
The subcommittee determines how much funding programs within the USDA receive, including the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI) and the Floriculture Crops Summary — two programs which SAF members lobbied for during Congressional Action Days.
Jamie Kitz, AAF, key account specialist and corporate citizenship specialist for Sakata Seed America in Salinas, California, thanked Bishop for supporting the FNRI and explained how growers use the information to produce new and improved products for U.S. consumers.
“He agreed that research is critical,” Kitz said, adding that Bishop recognized the SAF name from CAD activity, as well as an earlier meeting with CEO Kate Penn and President Bill LaFever, PFCI. “That really shows the importance of lobbying. It pays to keep a presence in front of our elected officials.”
Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-California) hosted the Sept. 4 event, which had about 30 guests — “a diverse representation from the agriculture industry,” Kitz said. Much of the dialogue centered on labor shortages and immigration, as well as the need for increased funding.
Panetta, who came into office in 2017, is also on the agriculture committee, and he chairs the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus. “He’s a huge supporter of floriculture,” Kitz said. “He even spoke at CAD two years ago.”
To make floriculture issues a priority in Congress, Kitz urges SAF members to invite their elected officials to visit their businesses.
“Do not be intimidated!” she said. “Most representatives are very approachable and receptive to what you have to say. They want to understand your business and what’s important to you so they can articulate your interests on Capitol Hill. Regional interactions carry a lot of weight that benefit the whole industry.”
For tips on connecting with your local representatives, see SAF’s Grassroots Guide.
Katie Hendrick Vincent is the Society of American Florists’ senior contributing editor.