SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Advance Industry’s Policy Priorities In Washington

Lin Schmale_headshot
Lin Schmale

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry.

“SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.”

Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry.

Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers.

Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin Schmale dedicated more than 20 years of her career to effectively representing the floriculture industry in Washington, D.C. Her efforts and vast contacts on Capitol Hill and at the USDA, EPA, International Trade Commission, and other agencies helped ensure the interests of SAF members were addressed.

Building Relationships: “It’s important to meet [your legislator] early in his or her career, and then stay in contact in the district,” says Marvin Miller, (left) pictured with Drew Gruenberg, COO of SAF. Miller has attended CAD for 25 years and is chair of SAF's government relations committee. “I would find out when my congressman was speaking, go to the talk and speak to him afterwards," he says. "I invited him to visit our company [Ball Horticultural Co.], and we ended up building a relationship that has really paid off over time.”
Drew Gruenburg (right) with Dr. Marvin Miller (left)
Shawn McBurney
Shawn McBurney

SAF’s partnership with Cornerstone will build on Schmale’s legacy with the commitment and representation that industry growers have come to expect. While SAF provided outstanding services for many years with just one agriculture lobbyist, by partnering with Cornerstone, SAF gains access to an entire group of professionals who will work collectively to solve problems and address members’ concerns. Cornerstone also has significant ties with and experience in the federal agricultural arena and will provide SAF with strategic advice.

At the same time, Shawn McBurney, SAF’s Senior Director of Government Relations, will continue to represent the floriculture industry on Capitol Hill on issues that impact the broader SAF membership, such as health care, immigration reform, taxes, minimum wage, overtime, and other labor issues.

“Cornerstone’s strategic vision and experience in legislative advice, politics, and government issues will support SAF’s efforts to represent our growers and address their future challenges,” says SAF COO Drew Gruenburg, who oversees SAF’s government relations efforts.

SAF’s immediate focus will be on advocacy to increase research funding for the floriculture industry, through the Farm Bill and the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI); improve access to crop protection and production tools; and address import regulation challenges. Cornerstone will also advise SAF on regulatory issues affecting immigration.

In addition, Cornerstone will represent SAF on USDA-APHIS regulatory issues, including customs and border patrol, pests and diseases, and support efforts to innovate and sustain crop production tools including biotechnology.

The SAF Growers’ Council helps determine the issues on which SAF lobbies.

Spearheading the advocacy effort will be Gruenburg from SAF, Cornerstone team leader Dr. Joe Bischoff, and colleagues Hunt Shipman, Alice Gomez, and Jeremy Witte.

Dr. Joe Bischoff, Hunt Shipman, Alice Gomez, and Jeremy Witte
Left to right: Dr. Joe Bischoff, Hunt Shipman, Alice Gomez and Jeremy Witte

Dr. Joe Bischoff

Before joining Cornerstone Government Affairs, Dr. Joe Bischoff served as Regulatory & Legislative Affairs Director for AmericanHort, where he managed federal agency issues regarding regulations and response to plant health concerns, international and domestic trade, and coordination of research efforts to resolve phytosanitary matters.

He served on the National Invasive Species Council’s Invasive Species Advisory Committee, Tier 2 Commodity Committee for the National Clean Plant Network for Fruit Trees, and Research Committee of the National Ornamentals Research Site at Dominican University of California. He worked extensively with Congressional agriculture committee staff on specialty crop Farm Bill programs, including successfully addressing many industry concerns in the review process of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI; Title VII).

Hunt Shipman

With over two decades of experience in Washington, D.C., Hunt Shipman served as senior executive for the food and beverage industry’s largest trade association. He served as Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and as the acting Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA. He was USDA’s principal negotiator with Congress for the 2002 Farm Bill, and served as staff director of the Senate Agriculture Committee and professional staff member at the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Shipman served on the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade and the Board of Directors for the U.S. Committee for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Alice Gomez

Attorney Alice Gomez represents producer organizations, commodity research and promotion programs, food manufacturers, and distributors on issues related to the marketing of agricultural products, international trade, and nutrition.

She advises checkoff programs on compliance with federal statutes and regulations, drafts and reviews contracts, and assists in developing client information for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as it provides oversight of checkoff program activities.

Jeremy Witte

Jeremy Witte assists the agriculture team in issue monitoring, legislative research and analysis, and message development and outreach. He is working on his masters degree in economics, holds an undergraduate degree in agricultural economics and agricultural business, and has managed a successful state representative political campaign. Witte is an alumnus of the 4-H and FFA organizations and the proud son and grandson of retired cattle ranchers.

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