The floral industry scored a victory this year with an additional $1 million annually for floriculture research, thanks to SAF’s advocacy efforts. But due to the fiscal approach of the new Congress, that funding increase — and the industry advancements that will result from it — might be in jeopardy for 2024 and beyond, which is why this year’s advocacy at Congressional Action Days, March 20-21, is more important than ever.
SAF members pushed for the additional funding for the Floriculture & Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI) with legislators during SAF’s 2022 Congressional Action Days. The increase is in addition to the $5.4 million annually going toward research projects in the current program. FNRI is a vital part of SAF’s efforts to respond to pest and disease problems, tackle the challenges of climate change, enhance the efficiency of production practices, develop and promote sustainable growing practices, and broaden the message of the positive environmental and social impact of the industry’s crops.
“The real threat we are facing is that Congress is signaling a much more conservative approach to domestic program spending going forward, putting the things we’ve worked for at risk,” says SAF Senior Lobbyist Joe Bischoff. “We need to be well positioned to talk to Congressional offices and make the case for why we asked for the increases we received for FNRI and explain all it does for the industry.”
Before 2018, FNRI was “getting squeezed, and on the losing end of funding cuts,” says Bischoff. But for the last five years, SAF and its members have ramped up advocacy and won significant increases to the program. The 2023 increase matches the largest increase the program has ever received. With this increase, FNRI will be able to broaden its scope and invest research into new technologies, such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), also known as drones. This technology could help save on labor for scouting and pesticide application, lower pesticide volumes because of better targeting, significantly reduce worker exposure to pesticides, and reduce soil compaction and erosion with less foot traffic in the fields.
Given the fiscal environment, this year during Congressional Action Days SAF members will thank Congressional offices for their support of FNRI and advocate to maintain that level of funding going forward.
“We are heading into the most difficult federal funding situation in a decade,” says Bischoff. “The increase we just received isn’t $1 million for one year — it’s $1 million every year. We need to be prepared to fight for the gains we have achieved.”
During Congressional Action Days, SAF members will also urge congressional offices to renew the Generalized System of Preferences to eliminate the 6.8 percent tariff on roses, and find a workable system for ag labor, among other issues. Join your peers to tell legislators why these issues are important and what your business is experiencing at home, during SAF’s Congressional Action Days, March 20-21, in Washington. Register today and book your hotel room by Feb. 24 to reserve SAF’s preferred rate.
Katie Butler is the senior vice president of the Society of American Florists.