Horticulture Industry Insiders Offer Tips on Communicating With Your Members of Congress
With immigration in the spotlight and a national budget that could severely impact programs the horticulture industry depends on for research dollars, it’s more important than ever to be vocal about how the decisions that lawmakers are implementing impact your business.
AmericanHort’s sold-out Impact Washington event takes place next week, and to help attendees prepare (and as advice for anyone else looking to send a message to their representatives on Capitol Hill), Greenhouse Grower asked key industry advocates at AmericanHort and Society of American Florists for their guidance on how best to communicate with members of Congress. Here’s some of their advice.
Greenhouse Grower: What’s a helpful hint for getting the attention of members of Congress?
Craig Regelbrugge, AmericanHort: Aside from writing checks (which is actually a good way to build a foundation relationship), get to know the staff. Establish yourself as a thoughtful source for credible insights and information. Start local (district office) but also aim to build a bridge or two with DC-based staff. They often spend some time in the district when Congress is home, and are eager to meet people and learn about issues that impact their constituents.
Greenhouse Grower: How often should growers contact their members of Congress? How can they draw more engagement?
Drew Gruenburg, Society of American Florists: It’s difficult to put a number on it. But regular engagement, whether it’s inviting the member of Congress to your place of business or a community event, is a good thing. Also, look at the Member’s website and sign up for updates on when in-district or in-state events are scheduled. But when you have a specific issue or concern, reach out and make your voice heard, always remembering to keep it respectful and professional.
Members of Congress are bombarded every day with all kinds of issues, and only through consistent contacts can the issues of growers remain at the top of their list. Inviting members of Congress to your local growing operation is a must. Most members of Congress have never grown anything, much less been in a growing operation. A tour provides the perfect opportunity for you to explain the complexity and amount of work that goes into operating a growing operation and how what they do every day in DC affects your business. From pesticides, to immigration, to trade, to water policy, to depreciation — they all affect your bottom line. In addition, they will be able to meet your employees and gain an appreciation about how many of their constituents you employ.