Despite Snow Storm, Industry Members Head
to D.C. to Make ‘Meaningful Change’
ALEXANDRIA, VA — March 16, 2017 — A major snowstorm didn’t stop dozens of retailers, wholesalers and growers from traveling to Washington, D.C., in mid-March to share their stories with lawmakers and advocate for industry issues on Capitol Hill.
In fact, the Society of American Florists’ 37th Annual Congressional Action Days drew its highest attendance in more than a decade, with 119 participants from 30 states and 35 first-timers.
The big turnout — even in the face of bad weather — said a lot about the dedication of floral industry members and the importance of CAD, which gives business owners the chance to connect directly with lawmakers and key staff on issues that affect people across the supply chain, according to SAF’s President-Elect Bill LaFever, PFCI, of the Bill Doran Company in Rockford, Illinois, who welcomed attendees by reminding them that, especially in a charged political environment, real-world, personal stories matter.
“Civil discussions lead to meaningful change,” he said. “Lawmakers can’t make decisions without hearing from a broad swath of people.”
This year, the SAF delegation focused its energy on three core issues — tax reform, immigration reform and industry research funding — asking their lawmakers to:
- Support comprehensive tax reform by simplifying the tax code and reducing rates, but excluding imported floral agricultural products from a border adjustment tax.
- Oppose stand-alone mandatory E-Verify legislation, including S.179, the “Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act,” which SAF’s Senior Director of Government Relations Shawn McBurney said would “cripple our agricultural economy.”
- Include a $250,000 increase for the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative in their formal requests to the Appropriations Committees.
Before heading to the Hill, attendees heard from experts on these issues as well as Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates, a D.C. area consultant and frequent CAD speaker who helps business owners prep for a role outside of their daily lives: lobbyist.
Still, as SAF Board Director (and longtime SAF attendee) Skip Paal, AAF, noted, floral industry members’ most important job during the two-day event was storyteller, not policy expert.
“We don’t have to be the experts,” Paal, the head of Rutland Beard Floral Group in metro Baltimore, told the crowd. “Our stories matter.”
Jamie Kitz of Sakata Ornamentals agreed, saying there was a “buzz in the room” as members prepared to head to the Capitol. “We’re all a little nervous and also very excited,” she said. “It is crucial that we all go to the Hill and represent our businesses and industry.”