April 13-14, 2021 | Influence Policy Virtually
As the Biden Administration moves forward with its legislative and regulatory agenda, SAF is making sure our industry’s needs are heard loud and clear. And we need your help. Please join your floral industry peers to show key decision makers in Washington, DC the strength and heft of our industry, during/at SAF’s 41st annual Congressional Action Days. This year’s virtual format makes it easy to participate from the comfort of your home or business—and registration is FREE!
What’s in it for you? The opportunity to:
- Connect with your floral peers to learn how to advocate for our industry
- Gain an insider’s perspective on how Washington, DC works
- Hear from a member of Congress about the outlook for floral industry issues
- Have a seat at the (virtual) table to influence the pending minimum wage legislation, affordable access to fresh product, access to a reliable labor force and funding for floriculture research.
Congressional Action Days Live Event Access:
Tuesday, April 13
9:00 a.m. ET
Open Mic Wrap Up:
Wednesday, April 14
4:00 p.m. ET
Check your inbox for an email and calendar invites from Katie Butler (firstname.lastname@example.org) that outlines your group’s advocacy meeting schedule. If you need meeting links or don’t know your schedule, please reach out to us via LiveChat or contact Laura Weaver Kern (email@example.com).
Tuesday, April 139:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. ET
Speakers: Joe Bischoff, Mike Cuzzi, Alice Gomez, Chris Hodgson
Join fellow attendees for a virtual welcome and kickoff to Congressional Action Days 2021! Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), new co-chair of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus, will share his perspective with attendees. It’s an opportunity for the industry to hear directly from a member of Congress who has decision-making authority on two floral industry priority issues: increasing funding for floral research, and reforming agriculture labor.
Chris Hodgson, former director of legislative affairs for Vice President Mike Pence, and Mike Cuzzi, former New Hampshire political director for President Barack Obama’s presidential primary, will break down the current environment in Washington D.C. and what it means for floriculture industry issues.
Before heading off to your virtual meetings, you’ll get a briefing from SAF’s lobbyists Joe Bischoff and Alice Gomez on key messages to deliver when you meet with Congressional and agency offices. Instead of a “state” delegation, you’ll meet up with your peers in small breakouts by advocacy issue—FNRI, GSP, minimum wage and ag labor—to prepare your meeting strategy and talking points.11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET
Congressional and Agency Meetings
This is your chance to tell lawmakers and regulators about how our key issues affect your business.6:30 – 7:30 p.m. ET
SAFPAC Fundraiser: A Night in Italy*
Chef Erik Foxx-Nettnin from The Polished Fox will guide participants through the art of Italian cooking as they work virtually alongside him to prepare Veal Scaloppini. The evening will include cooking a delicious meal, a group activity and provide time for networking. Join us to cook or just watch and spend time with your peers!
Don’t miss this virtual fundraiser for SAFPAC — the only national political action committee dedicated to advocating for the floral industry. Plus: 100 percent of your ticket is used to help elect floriculture-friendly members of Congress.
*There is a fee to attend this special event supporting SAF’s Political Action Committee. To learn more, contact Katie Butler firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, April 149:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Congressional and Agency Meetings
This is your chance to tell lawmakers and regulators about how our key issues affect your business. Here’s how it will work:
- We’re setting up meetings in approximately 30 Congressional offices and agency departments that influence our key issues: Floriculture & Nursery Research Initiative Funding, GSP, minimum wage and ag labor.
- You’ll be put into a group based on your interest in each issue and the issue’s relevance to your business sector – and you’ll “travel” (virtually) from meeting to meeting with this group. (When you register, you’ll be asked to indicate which issues are most important to you.)
- Each group will have an appointed “group leader” — a CAD veteran who will lead the pre-meeting practice session during the Grassroots Lobbying Training and will act as the facilitator during the meeting.
- Never been talked to a member of Congress before? Don’t worry, we’ll show you the ropes!
Open Mic Wrap-up
Join with fellow attendees to share your experience and the biggest takeaways from your advocacy meetings.
Dr. Joe Bischoff
Dr. Joe Bischoff is SAF’s senior lobbyist and a member of the agriculture and natural resources team at Cornerstone Government Affairs. His work focuses on the intersection of federal programs and the pursuit of science-based solutions to plant health and crop production challenges. Dr. Bischoff has served on a number of scientific committees including the National Invasive Species Council’s Invasive Species Advisory Committee and the National Clean Plant Network. Previously, Dr. Bischoff was with the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service where he was National Mycologist and Lead Scientist on the APHIS Intercepted Plant Pathogen Sequence Initiative.
Mike Cuzzi joined Cornerstone’s federal and state government relations teams in February 2021 as a principal. Mike’s expertise is focused on energy and environmental issues. He is based in Maine and is assisting the firm in building out its Northeast Regional capabilities for states including Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Mike has two decades of experience working with businesses, industry associations and political leaders throughout New York, Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire. He has two decades of political campaign experience and relationships, having previously served in senior positions on both presidential and congressional campaigns, including as former New Hampshire political director for President Barack Obama’s presidential primary.
SAF lobbyist Alice Gomez is an attorney with Cornerstone Government Affairs and a professional member of the food and agriculture practice group. She represents producer organizations, international entities, commodity research and promotion programs, food manufacturers and distributors on issues related to the marketing of agricultural products, international trade, and nutrition.
Chris Hodgson joined Cornerstone’s federal government relations team as a principal in March 2021. Chris brings extensive knowledge of the legislative process and relationships spanning the U.S. House, Senate, and executive branch through his work on Capitol Hill and in the Office of Vice President Mike Pence. Prior to joining Cornerstone, Chris served as director of legislative affairs to Vice President Mike Pence. As the Vice President’s top liaison to Congress, Chris managed relationships with House and Senate leadership, congressional committees and caucuses, and members of Congress, while working to coordinate and execute efforts to achieve the Administration’s legislative priorities. Chris began his career on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant for Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), then Chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
Floriculture & Nursery Research Initiative: More Research Funding
What We’re Asking: Congress to increase its financial support for FNRI by $1 million.
The Backstory: FNRI is a federally funded program through the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). It was initially conceived by the industry in the 1980s with the intent to help guide and support floriculture and nursery research priorities.
Why Our Industry Needs It: FNRI is vital to our efforts to respond to pest and disease challenges, enhance the efficiency and sustainability of our production practices, and broaden the message of the positive environmental and social impact of our crops. With the appropriate resources, FNRI can play a significant role in the floriculture industry’s pursuit of reducing crop inputs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) throughout the supply chain.
General System of Preferences Reauthorization: Cost Savings on Imports
What We’re Asking: Congress to take immediate action to renew GSP.
The Backstory: The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) has been in place for more than 45 years, promoting opportunity for the least economically developed countries abroad and supporting U.S. businesses that rely on imported products to sustain and grow their businesses.
Why Our Industry Needs It: U.S. floral retailers have benefitted greatly from duty-free imports of cut flowers both through trade agreements and GSP. Nearly 80% of cut flowers purchased in the U.S. are grown in other countries and almost 95% of those imported come from countries where relief from duties is applied. For local and family-owned floral shops and wholesalers who are facing increased pressures through state actions on minimum wage, increased costs of healthcare and other challenges, the cost savings through duty-free imports are significant to the health of their business and thus the industry.
Duty free status has resulted in about $40 million per year staying in the floral industry rather than being diverted to federal coffers, a number expected to increase significantly with the recent addition of roses to GSP eligibility list. These are dollars that are used to hire additional staff, promote consumer purchases, and invest in the future of family businesses. However, GSP’s authorization expired on Dec. 31, 2020, and must be renewed if the duty-free status and business certainty it provides for fresh cut flowers and other products is to be reinstated.
Maintain the Minimum Wage
What We’re Asking: Congress should maintain the minimum wage. This is not the right time for a federal increase, as it will only stunt the recovery of the floriculture industry.
The Backstory: The recently introduced Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would increase the federal minimum wage to $15.00 per hour over 5 years and provides for further increases in subsequent years. Congress should not saddle small business owners with this significant cost increase, especially not now at a time when small businesses are confronted with the worst pandemic in more than 100 years, with 25 percent of small business owners reporting that they will have to close their doors if current economic conditions do not improve.
Why Our Industry Needs It: Businesses in the floriculture industry have very narrow profit margins and cannot absorb increased labor costs. Floral industry businesses often pay in excess of the minimum wage to attract and retain valuable employees. An increase in the federal minimum wage would create an upward pressure on those already-higher wages and may prove to be unsustainable. Floral business owners know that more than doubling the federal minimum wage will require many to reduce their labor force, cut business investments and, for some, cause them to close their doors.
Ag Labor and Immigration: Preserve Agriculture’s Workforce
What We’re Asking: Congress must take action to pass legislation that preserves agriculture’s experienced workforce and provides for agriculture’s future needs with a flexible, market-based agricultural worker visa program that allows access to a legal and reliable workforce moving forward.
Why Our Industry Needs It: The devastating labor shortage is impacting flower growing operations today and jeopardizes the future success of the floriculture sector and the vitality of rural economies, which rely upon agriculture as a primary economic driver. Small- and medium-sized growers are at a critical juncture caused by the margin between profitability and loss due to the labor-intensive nature of this sector and misguided federal policy on agricultural labor. The impact goes far beyond the farm gate, as each on-farm employee supports two to three other jobs up and down the food and agriculture supply chain.
Q: Why should SAF members prioritize attending CAD this year?
The last year has been highly challenging on many fronts, including federal advocacy. We’ve had success during this time, including gaining access to federal support for domestic growers of floriculture through the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), and the addition of fresh cut roses to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). However, challenges and opportunities remain—and it’s never been so easy to fall off the radar of federal decision makers, with so many different interests competing for their attention. Making our voices heard and letting members of Congress and federal agency staff know what actions we are looking for them to take is a fundamental part of our stewardship of the floral industry. 2021 is not a year to sit back and just watch what happens. It’s a time to participate and get even more engaged. In fact, it’s never been easier to participate in CAD with this year’s virtual format.
Q: Will I meet with my Congressional state delegation like I did when Congressional Action Days was in person?
The virtual format necessitates an advocacy strategy shift: Rather than matching participants up with meetings in each of their congressional offices — which results in well over 100 total meetings — SAF will schedule meetings with a laser-like focus on members of Congress who have influence over SAF’s issues and who have been supportive of the floriculture industry. SAF also will plan meetings with relevant federal agency staff, including important players at USTR, USDA and the EPA — something that logistics and time prohibits during an in-person CAD.
We plan to take advantage of the virtual setting to leverage our meetings to make the most impact — with the members and staff who can directly impact and move our issues forward.
Q: How will the virtual format work for advocacy meetings?
SAF will be scheduling meetings with Congressional offices and federal agencies, and you will receive virtual meeting log-on information via email. Because we are scheduling Congressional and agency meetings by advocacy issue (FNRI, GSP, minimum wage and ag labor), SAF attendees will break attendees into groups based on interest in advocating on each issue and the issue’s relevance to your business sector. Each group will have an appointed “group leader” to act as the facilitator of the meeting (much like how state delegations organize themselves at the in-person CAD) and you’ll have a chance to meet with your group in small breakout sessions during the CAD kickoff on Tuesday, April 13 at 9:00 a.m. ET.
Q: Is there a registration fee?
A shift to the virtual meeting format gives SAF members the opportunity to participate in the event without the barriers of travel cost and time away from their businesses. Event registration is free for SAF members. Note: The SAFPAC event on Tuesday, April 13 does have a fee.
Q: How many meetings will I attend?
This year’s fly in will be a combination of meetings with Congressional offices, committee staff and federal agencies. We believe this format will give the opportunity to meet with a broader set of decision makers. Each participant will attend three to five meetings. Each meeting will be no more than 30 minutes in length.
Q: I’m not available for all of my meetings–is that o.k.?
While it is certainly preferable for you to attend all of your group’s meetings, if you have a conflict with some of the meeting times, that’s ok. Participate as much as you can–we need as many voices representing the floral industry as possible!
Q: What are virtual meeting must do’s—and things to avoid?
The expectations aren’t very different from a typical face-to-face meeting. Stay engaged and be prepared to be on camera—but know that some Congressional or agency staff may remain off camera. In each meeting, we will follow the lead of the staffer. We want to make sure the members and staff we engage with know we value their time and the best way to communicate that is by being attentive during the meeting. Another key to every virtual meeting, as we’ve all experienced: when you’re not talking, keep yourself on mute. Luckily SAF has a group of CAD advocacy meeting veterans— and the new folks don’t miss a beat.