Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia-6) does not represent Mike Mooney. In fact, Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, represents a district some 2,500 miles from Mooney’s home in Southern California.
But last week, when Mooney, of Dramm & Echter in Encinitas, was on Capitol Hill, he paused outside Goodlatte’s office door. From a Society of American Florists briefing the day before, Mooney recognized the influential lawmaker’s name. He knew that Goodlatte was the author of key pieces of immigration-related legislation — a central issue for Mooney and the 91 other floral industry members in Washington for SAF’s Congressional Action Days.
SAF’s California delegation had a packed day of office visits with their own lawmakers from the Golden State — but Mooney couldn’t resist the opportunity to get in front of someone so central to immigration reform issues. He turned to CalFlowers President Ben Dobbe of Holland America Flowers in Arroyo Grande, California, and said, “We’re going in.”
Nearly two hours later, Mooney and Dobbe emerged from the same office with new, meaningful connections with Goodlatte’s senior staff. Far from questioning why two Californians were asking to meet with a Virginia lawmaker, the staff members were eager to better understand the floral industry’s need for a steady, reliable and legal workforce.
Armed with SAF data, Mooney and Dobbe educated the congressional staff on the size and importance of the U.S. floral industry to the American economy.
“About an hour into our visit, I realized they had no idea floriculture was this big or this impactful,” said Mooney, noting that, in addition to discussing immigration, he was able to raise other CAD issues, funding for the Floriculture & Nursery Research Initiative and the Floriculture Crops Report. “Thanks to SAF and the education I received, I was able to eloquently ask for more research funding.”
Those kinds of face-to-face interactions and lasting connections are a key part of CAD, and last week SAF members from around the country took the opportunity to educate lawmakers and their staff throughout the event.
Liza Roeser Atwood of FiftyFlowers.com in Boise, Idaho, was at CAD for her second time. This year, she felt more in her comfort zone as she took to Congress.
“The data [SAF provides] helped build my confidence,” she said. “We had really good conversations throughout the day with lawmakers and staff.”
Longtime CAD attendee Dr. Marvin Miller, AAF, of Ball Horticultural Co. in West Chicago, was part of an ambitious Illinois delegation that tackled nearly 20 appointments in one day. Miller said this year’s event left him feeling energized.
“For all the many years I’ve been coming to CAD, there were still a lot of people on Capitol Hill that had ‘aha’ moments on floriculture,” he said. “So many young staffers have never thought about where or how flowers are grown, where product comes from. We made an impression.”
Madeline Tanouye, a student at the University of South Carolina, attended with Alan Tanouye, of Floralife in Walterboro, South Carolina. “This has really made me rethink politics,” she said, noting a productive meeting with staff members from the office of Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina). “It was very interesting.”
For another first-time attendee, Irving Casiano Flores, of the Flower Shop Network in Paragould, Arkansas, this year’s event was especially timely. Casiano Flores is a DACA recipient — and in talking about important industry issues, including immigration, he was also able to share his own story. “It’s important I think for all of us to come to Washington, and make our voices heard,” he said.
For Paul Fowle of DV Flora in Doral, Florida, the choice to come to CAD was clear: “[Coming to CAD] isn’t an interruption to my business,” he said. “ It’s an investment in my business.”
Check out additional photos from the event — and find yourself! — on SAF’s Flicker account.
Read more about this year’s event.