A Day In The Life Of Lobbying For Floriculture

ANLA’s Craig Regelbrugge is fighting for floriculture. As ANLA’s vice president for government relations and co-chair for the Agriculture Coalition For Immigration Reform, Regelbrugge is on the front line working toward policies that benefit our industry, such as immigration reform. So what’s his day like? Here’s a report from Washington D.C. on a day in the life of Craig Regelbrugge. 

You can do your part by attending and supporting events like SAF’s Congressional Action Days, March 11-12, 2013, in Washington D.C.

Here’s Regelbrugge’s report:

After four years of trying to get a large boulder rolling uphill, there is motion and momentum. Now, it’s about directing that motion. And sustaining the momentum.

Let me give you a quick ‘day-in-the-life’ description of the daily grind, and a few thoughts about the road ahead.

• I awoke yesterday to a ‘Marketplace’ interview on NPR of Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. He’s one of the Gang of Eight [a group of four republicans and four democrats in the Senate who have proposed immigration reform, read ABC News’ Who Are The Gang Of Eight In Senate Immigration Debate?] that unveiled the principles (and, thankfully, preempted the President’s speech!) Two hours later, I was on the phone with Bennet’s staff team, brainstorming and troubleshooting.

• At 11 a.m., I met with the immigration counsel for Minnesota Sen. Al Franken. I shared and updated them, and they really want to help make sure the nursery and landscape industry benefits from the reform effort.

• We had an 11:30 meeting with Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s staff. Flake is also Gang of Eight, and a rock-ribbed fiscal conservative. We talked about the pieces important to Flake, including the border and agriculture. On the latter, he urged us to ‘get to yes’ on a new deal with the farm worker advocates. If we do, we bring energy to the overall effort. If we don’t, everything’s much tougher.

• At 12:30, I met with a top advisor to the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. ANLA has had a strong relationship with outgoing Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, and it’s time to get to know the new one. Fortunately, some staff are staying for a while. Mexico’s obviously got a major stake in what happens, and they want to play a constructive yet careful role.

• At 2 p.m., participated in a small ‘strike force’ conference call organized by the National Immigration Forum to share intelligence and coordinate efforts with Congressional targets and in the states. Yesterday’s call focused on who has assets and activities in the states of Arizona, California, Kansas and Kentucky. This involved fast-paced info sharing by an eclectic bunch ranging from Grover Norquist to evangelical leaders.

• At 3 p.m., a group of us were in with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s staff team. (We had met with Republican House leadership staff on Tuesday). Call this visit ‘protecting our left flank…’

• At 4 p.m., I met with chief of staff for Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. He’s part of the ‘secret bipartisan group’ of House members who are negotiating a bill.

• At 5 p.m., the immigration counsel for Arizona Sen. John McCain, also part of the Gang of Eight, met. They are pulling long days.

• And finally, at 6 p.m., a few of us met to brainstorm ‘Bibles, badges, and business’ collaboration opportunities. There is lots of power in getting faith, law enforcement, ag and business working together to give politicians cover.

If you haven’t had a chance to read them, the Senate principles are pretty good. And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — who is now our Republican lead on the agricultural piece (woohoo!) — has been terrifically effective reaching out to conservative influencers like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. Visit latest post on RedState for an example.

All that said, the Senate principles are just a framework. The Gang of Eight wants legislation refined by March. We have tons of work to do, while sustaining momentum. The farm, nursery, greenhouse and landscape-worker components are a top priority for ANLA. On that front, there’s a high-pressure, high-stakes negotiation underway among legal eagles for the employer side and for the farm workers. Of the four employer-side lawyers in the process, two are ours — ANLA’s employment and immigration counsel Monte Lake and Lynn Jacquez. So we’re very much in the room.

Meanwhile, remember that all politics are local. The real power is in the hands of the constituents. You need to be letting your lawmakers know how important it is that they get to real solutions on this issue. It’s an economic and a jobs issue, and there’s no time like the present to deal with it. Also, if you have reason to be in Washington, please give your staff team here at ANLA an early heads-up. We can work with you to provide talking points, help set up meetings, and so forth.

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