SAF Members Bring Flower Power To Capitol Hill

SAF Members Bring Flower Power To Capitol Hill

Energy was high and the mood upbeat as dozens of SAF members talked up the power of the floral industry across Capitol Hill on March 15, during SAF’s Congressional Action Days (CAD). Attendees represented every type and size of floral business — retail florists, independent designers, wholesalers, suppliers, importers and growers. 
Traveling together as state or regional teams (and occasionally as a confident solo), they worked their way through more than a quarter of congressional offices talking about their businesses and sharing the industry’s concerns.
Dave Self, owner of Wyld West Annuals in Loxahatchee, Fla., says the only thing that could lure him away from the Sunshine State’s balmy weather was “the opportunity to get my representatives thinking about what matters to my business.” Of utmost importance to him: repealing 1099 regulations and immigration reform. 
SAF President Leo Roozen of Washington Bulb Company in Mount Vernon, Wash., lauded the many CAD veterans in attendance for an important recent legislative victory that demonstrates how persistent grassroots lobbying pays off: On January 1, the estate tax would have been reinstated to pre-2001 levels (55 percent rate and a $1 million exemption), but a reform measure signed into law by President Obama set the tax rate at 35 percent and the exemption level at $5 million.
“This is a huge success for this industry and the small business community–and many of you here in this room, along with other SAF members, are responsible for it,” Roozen says at the kickoff breakfast last Monday. Some participants had been lobbying for estate tax relief at CAD for nearly 10 years. 
“I want to thank all of you CAD veterans for every time you came to CAD, every time you sent an e-mail, wrote a letter, made a phone call.” Roozen says. “Individually and collectively, we make a difference.”
CAD attendees spent the second day of the event on Capitol Hill sharing the floral industry’s position on its top legislative and regulatory concerns. This year, those issues were immigration reform, repeal of new 1099 reporting requirements and extension of the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act. 
Training Day
Before their trek through the halls of Congress, attendees spend a full day learning what to say and do when meeting with their legislators. At the kickoff breakfast March 14, Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for Time magazine and MSNBC, provided a sense of the mood in Congress and the administration’s legislative agenda. 
Right now, the president is laser focused on following through on his campaign promises, and the Republicans, who are almost certain to take the Senate in 2012, are playing a waiting game, Halperin says: “I don’t think we’re going to see any bipartisanship this year, which is unfortunate, because the president’s agenda is very close to what the Republicans want. If you took politics out of the equation, I think they could come to a deal in about 45 minutes.”
At the issues briefing which followed, SAF’s government relationship team provided background and tips for translating industry concerns into constituent impact for lawmakers. Make it personal, says Jeanne Ramsay, SAF senior director of government affairs. “Talk about what it means to your business.” 
The new 1099 rule requires businesses to send a 1099 to every vendor–and the IRS–with which they spend more than $600 annually on goods or services. Attendees easily translated that into a huge new workload. 
“I’m probably underestimating a bit, but right now we probably write only a couple of 1099s each year,” says SAF Government Relations Chairman David Mitchell of Mitchell’s Flowers in Orland Park, Ill. “Under the new rules, that will jump to around 200.” First-time attendee Walter Knoll estimated his company would go from issuing 900 forms a year to 3,000 or more. “And the thing is, because you don’t know whether you’re going to hit that $600 mark with someone, you’ll just issue them to everyone.”
Concern for flower growers’ ability to find enough legal workers to harvest their crops was the focus of the immigration issue CAD attendees took to Capitol Hill. “SAF is willing to work with Congress on an improved enforcement program (through E-Verify),” says SAF Senior Director of Government Relations Lin Schmale. “But only if the solution includes realistic ways to obtain and maintain a productive, legally authorized workforce.” 
The day’s training wrapped up with an interactive workshop with veteran lobbyist and former congressional staff director Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates. To prepare attendees for their visits to congressional offices the next day, Vance shared her three-tiered hierarchy of action: education, public relations and advocacy. “First, you want legislators to understand what you do,” Vance says. “Then, you want them to like what you do.” 
After establishing insight and rapport, it’s time for advocacy. “Go in and ask for something specific,” she says. Asking is key, Vance says, “because it puts them on the spot.” Simply stating your beliefs invites legislators to nod, smile and compliment your argument; questioning them makes them take a stand.”
Monday evening, supporters of SAFPAC, SAF’s political action committee, could not help but be inspired by the advice of Retired Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, USN, who served as commanding officer on the USS Cole, when it was attacked by Al-Qaeda in the Yemeni port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000. 
After an emotionally riveting and spine-tingling account of the terrorist attack on his ship and the subsequent search and rescue operations, Lippold provided some practical messages for leaders to help them manage crises big and small. “Crisis management is about more than dealing with the ‘now’ or leaning on yourself,” Lippold says. “You need to always have a plan for where you’re going.” Additionally, Lippold preached the importance of “investing” the utmost trust in your crew. “Create a bubble of trust for people and they will learn what they need to do to be successful, even if they occasionally fail,” he says. 
On Tuesday morning, Rep. Reid Ribble (R-8-Wisconsin), a first-time congressman who until very recently stood in the same small-business-owner shoes, cheered attendees on to their appointments. “I feel like I’ve come home, speaking to small business owners and association members,” he says, praising attendees for taking time away from their families and their companies to make a difference. “It is essential to the American dream and the prosperity of your children for you to speak with members of Congress about your concerns. Next year, there should be 1,000 of you here.”
On Capitol Hill
Among this year’s 80 CAD participants were 13 who walked the halls of Congress for the first time. Jay Winnerman of Smithers-Oasis, was one of them. “I found everyone very friendly,” he says of the staff members he met during his legislative appointments. “They were very busy but very respectful and really glad to see constituents. Overall, it was just a great experience. I’d absolutely do it again.”
SAF’s hospitality suite at the Capitol Hill Club was buzzing all day Tuesday as members prepared for and reported back about their congressional appointments. “(Sen.) Olympia Snow (R-Maine) is definitely supporting all our positions. I feel very positive about both of my appointments this morning,” says Shelley Pease of Shelley’s Flowers & Gifts in Waldoboro, Maine.
First-time CAD participant Skip Paal of Rutland Beard Florist in Catonsville, Md., was pleased with his stop at the office of  Rep. Rosko Bartlett (R-6-Md.): “The woman I talked with knew where my business was and said she’d drag the congressman to see me if she had to.” Paal received a thank you e-mail from his contact at Bartlett’s office the same afternoon.
“The two meetings we had this morning were the best we’ve ever had,” says Troy Lucht of Plant Source International & Malmborg’s in Rogers, Minn. “The people we met with asked very specific questions about our positions and really wanted to hear what we had to say.”
Next Year
The 2012 election campaigns will be underway the next time SAF members make their trip to Washington. “It’ll be more important than ever to make sure we’re visible on Capitol Hill,” says Drew Gruenburg, SAF COO. Congressional Action Days 2012 is set for March 19-20. Programs and training take place on March 19 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Alexandria, Va., with congressional visits just across the Potomac the following day.
Learn more about Congressional Action Days online at

Leave a Reply

More From State of the Industry...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Latest Stories
HRI logo

April 8, 2015

Horticultural Research Institute Accepting Scholarship …

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) is offering seven scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year, totaling $20,000. Applications will be accepted through May 31.

Read More
protecting bees and pollinators video

March 31, 2015

New Video On Protecting Bees And Pollinators Educates H…

A new educational video that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship is one result of industry collaboration by the Horticultural Research Institute, AmericanHort, Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment. “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” narrates the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy pollinator ecosystems.

Read More

March 25, 2015

NASS Reports U.S. Honey Production Was Up By 19 Percent…

Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013, according to a March 20 report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s…

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

February 2, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State Of The In…

The Greenhouse Grower 2015 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons on 2014 sales to past years, details on how 2015 production volume and prices will compare to 2014, crops that growers will increase and decrease production on, where growers stand on using neonicotinoids on crops, how many growers will pursue growing medical marijuana and more.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Benchmarks: Let’s Change Our Story

It's a new year. Time for our industry to change how consumers perceive plants by creating a new reality where plants are valued for more than their physical beauty.

Read More

January 21, 2015

AFE Wins Platinum MarCom Award For “Murder, Sex a…

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) took home its fourth award for the animated awareness video "Murder, Sex and Greed." The organization also recently announced that there are two new members on its board of trustees.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 19, 2015

2015 State Of The Industry: Current Green Industry Tren…

Demand for green industry products and services is forecasted to increase in coming years as the housing market rebounds.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Terra Nigra Joins DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group will be expanding its range of cut flowers by incorporating Terra Nigra, a company specializing in breeding and propagation of gerberas and roses.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Florensis Receives Horticultural Entrepreneur Award

During the January 7, 2015 award ceremony in the Keukenhof, in Lisse, Netherlands, Florensis received the Horticultural Entrepreneur Award. Florensis was one of four nominated companies, which also included Arcadia BV, Artemis and Martens Asperges.

Read More

January 9, 2015

AmericanHort Celebrates Its First Birthday

AmericanHort was formally launched one year ago on January 1, 2014, and the association is celebrating numerous successes of the first year.

Read More
Carol Miller

January 7, 2015

We’re All In This Together

Growers and retailers have a common goal — to serve customers better. In this new column, Greenhouse Grower will take a look at ways growers and retailers can work together to take advantage of profit opportunities and better meet customer needs.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Industry Speaks Out Against “Waters Of The U.S.” Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule change to the Clean Water Act, known as “waters of the U.S.,” has the potential to disrupt normal business practices for growers across the country.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Students Tackle Real-Life Challenges At National FFA Fl…

Top prize winners put skills learned in the classroom to the test at the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Floriculture Career Development Event.

Read More
Lesley Judd

January 7, 2015

2014 Meister Scholarship Awarded To Ph.D Student

The Richard T. Meister Scholarship was awarded to Lesley Judd, a graduate student with a passion for horticulture and a desire to pass her knowledge along through teaching.

Read More

January 6, 2015

39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium Will Be Febr…

The Professional Gardener Alumni Association (PGAA) will hold the 39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium program will be on February 6, 2015 from 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. in the Ballroom at Longwood Gardens, and will feature an array of engaging speakers.

Read More
Shawn McBurney

January 6, 2015

Society Of American Florists Hires New Lobbyist

Shawn McBurney joined the Society of American Florists' (SAF) staff starting January 5 as the new senior director of government relations.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

Growers Are Optimistic For A Strong Year In 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s State Of The Industry survey reveals that growers are being cautious about the inputs they use, and they’re worried about input costs and regulation, but enthusiastic about the rebounding economy.

Read More