Your Voice Matters in Shaping Policy Important to Horticulture [Opinion]
“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” — Thomas Jefferson
We’ve heard and seen a lot of this statement, or different versions of it, in the past few weeks, and witnessed historic demonstrations of it on a national and international scale.
Whether dissenting or approving, a positive that has come out of this past year’s unprecedented election and dramatic change of power nationwide is the level of awareness and engagement it has ignited in citizens of all walks of life. Those who have been interested in politics all along are mobilizing for more direct involvement. People who have been disengaged for decades are paying attention now, staying informed, and speaking out.
But merely dissenting or approving could be considered unpatriotic if it’s done in a way that’s unproductive, violent, or from behind the cover of social media or another online forum, where one has little or nothing to lose. Anyone can voice an opinion, but not everyone will step up and take the appropriate action to register an official statement, write a letter, make a call, or better yet, schedule a visit to lawmakers.
There are currently 59 new lawmakers on Capitol Hill who need to hear from horticulture industry members and learn about what’s important to you. And the veterans could use a refresher course, as well. Why is this important right now?
“We are in the most uncertain times I’ve seen in 27 years representing this fine industry,” says Craig Regelbrugge, Vice President for Government Relations and Research, AmericanHort. “Most Republican members of Congress are reluctant to speak out against early actions by the new administration. We’re optimistic they will find their voice, so now is an important time for them to know the priorities of small and family horticulture businesses. Decisions made on a variety of issues will have profound impact — good or bad — on our industry. If you are on the sidelines, you will get what you get. Why squander the opportunity?”
Current areas of concern that growers, retailers, suppliers, researchers, and allied trades need to speak up on include potential changes in the tax code, healthcare, labor and environmental regulations, cash accounting, and more.
“Immigration remains a big issue of concern,” says Shawn McBurney, the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) Lobbyist and Senior Director of Government Relations. “The current administration has already issued several executive orders and has more in draft form that seek to secure our borders and enforce current law. But merely enforcing existing laws without significant reform to create a guestworker program and addressing the number of undocumented workers in agriculture will be devastating.”
Industry members have two excellent opportunities to get to know members of Congress in person this year. SAF’s annual Congressional Action Days, March 13-14, may be the first exposure many of the freshman senators and representatives have to our industry. And if you bring a friend, you get a free registration.
This fall, AmericanHort is hosting a new event, Impact Washington: Advocacy and Leadership Summit, September 12-13 in Washington, D.C. This gathering of industry leaders will represent the horticulture industry as a united front and key economic player, while facilitating valuable face-time between the decisionmakers and the business owners those decisions impact.
Visiting in person is highly effective and valuable, of course, but continuing that relationship through regular contact with your local, state, and national lawmakers — and not just when you have a problem — is essential and will establish your name and business as a resource and an ally.
Get involved and stay involved. You can and will make a difference, and we all must — starting right now.
Grower Homework: Find out what committees your representatives and senators serve on and their jurisdiction, in order to communicate your stance on issues they can directly impact. Agriculture-related issues touch nearly every committee in both the House and Senate. Let me know about your experiences at [email protected]