If you’ve stepped in a Trader Joe’s lately, you’ve probably seen the blue and yellow “CA GROWN” license plate label affixed to sleeves of flowers. Branding flowers from the Golden State with that label is just one of the many examples of the California Cut Flower Commission’s lobbying efforts. We caught up with CCFC CEO Kasey Cronquist who’s traveled to the nation’s capital twice within the last month to talk to legislators about issues facing American flower farmers. He shared a little about what’s been accomplished and why lobbying is so integral for the industry.
KH: California’s so nice. What were you doing in Washington, D.C., at the end of February?
KC: I was with a 16 member delegation of American Flower Farmers, lobbying for stronger advocacy for our country’s flower farmers. A lot of farmers were from the California, but there were representative from Alaska, Washington (the state), Oregon, Maryland and Virginia, as well. This was our second year assembling as a national group of cut flower and greens farmers to take our issues to Capitol Hill.
KH: What inspired the formation of the American Flower Farmer Delegation? What are some issues facing domestic farmers?
KC: Domestic flower farmers face unique challenges on a variety of fronts in order to remain competitive in a market where over 80% of the flowers sold in our country are imported. It is critically important for our farms to go tell their stories, explain their unique challenges and raise the awareness of what value and economic impact the average flower farmer brings to their local communities, beyond just their beautiful flowers.
KH: You had some excitement following the end of that trip, didn’t you?
KC: Yes, our efforts really came to fruition when Representatives Lois Capps and Duncan Hunter launched the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus. That’s something we have been working on for more than a year. We’d been planting seeds – building relationships with legislators, educating them about our issues and persuading them that the American public wants to know more about their flowers’ origin, just as they do the foods they eat. We told representatives the caucus would be a great opportunity for representatives to connect with their constiuents to better understand what goes into flower farming in our country, the jobs it creates and the rewards involved with supplying local flowers to local retailers, florists and consumers. I was pretty confident that the growing interest in the “buy local” movement was going to help us, but it was still very exciting to come home knowing we’d secured a team of congressional champions dedicated to our cause.
And that’s only the beginning. The administration just used all American grown flowers in a White House state dinner with French president Francoise Hollande. Then, on April 4, the California Cut Flower Commission is donating flowers to theKnot.com’s annual “dream wedding.” This year, they’ve selected a couple who both were injured in the Boston Marathon bombing. It’s basically an “all-American grown wedding for an all-American couple.” I can see this trend spreading. There’s definitely a surge in interest in domestic flowers.
KH: For the inexperienced, what does lobbying entail?
KC: We visited the offices of our members of Congress (who have farmers in their district) and encouraged them to support the interests of American farmers. We explained the challenges our farmers face in the marketplace, and gave information about the value of buying locally grown flowers and the opportunities the domestic flower industry presents for the U.S. economy.
Establishing personal relationships is critical, like it is in business. People are more prone to listen if they feel like they know you, and that’s what you need to educate and build awareness.
We left offices with cut flowers from many farms so they could see the breadth and depth of what we grow. They also received profiles of the individual farms and statistics about the economic impact our farms have. In part, we wanted them to have background, but it was also important that they have something to remember us by.
KH: And then you turned right back around for the Society of American Florists’ Congressional Action Days, right? Why was it worth visiting Capitol Hill again?
KC: There was a little more than week in between. SAF’s Congressional Action Days represent the industry’s broader agenda, which we support. Some of the things they bring to the Hill during CAD, like immigration reform, are issues that we [California farmers] can really weigh in on, and help bring to life for our industry colleagues when they meet with their own representatives. CAD’s a collaborative effort and I think it’s important to contribute.
There’s no doubt that getting things done in D.C. involves a long game strategy. It takes time to build relationships and create understanding. You can’t expect to move mountains in one trip. You chip away a little at a time, building opportunities slowly. Relationships really are key. Even when you’re home, lobbying should continue. We always invite representatives and their staffs to tour flower farms when they’re back in California. Seeing the actual facilities and the people who grow their flowers makes them all the more appreciative of what goes into being an American flower farmer.
Plus, it gave me another opportunity to pull out my winter coat!
Why Lobbying Matters
Last edited: Today at 12:22 AM
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