NEWS posted by

The White House’s War of the Roses

S­ADENA, Cali­for­nia—In 1890, when the boos­t­er­ish lead­ers of this Los Angeles sub­urb foun­ded the New Year’s Day Rose Parade, the whole point was to use fresh-cut Cali­for­nia flowers to show Amer­ic­ans in colder cli­mates why they should come for a winter vis­it or move here.
One hun­dred and six­teen years later, the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl foot­ball game still thrive. But since the United States began al­low­ing flowers from Colom­bia and Ecuador to enter the coun­try duty-free in 1991, the vast ma­jor­ity of the flowers used on the entries in the parade have come from those coun­tries—even though they are grown on trop­ic­al plant­a­tions with cheap labor, their en­vir­on­ment­al stand­ards have been ques­tioned, and they don’t pro­mote Cali­for­nia.
But in this year’s parade, the Cali­for­nia Cut Flower Com­mis­sion made pro­gress in its cam­paign to re­mind Cali­for­nia and the na­tion that the U.S. cut-flower in­dustry is still alive in 39 states and ready to provide flowers to Amer­ic­ans around the coun­try throughout the year.
The in­dustry is also try­ing to bring its aware­ness cam­paign to the na­tion’s cap­it­al, par­tic­u­larly the White House.
Three of the 40-plus floats in the Rose Parade were in­de­pend­ently cer­ti­fied “Cali­for­nia Grown,” mean­ing that at least 85 per­cent of the flowers and green­ery on them came from Cali­for­nia.
The Na­tion­al Park Ser­vice launched its centen­ni­al cel­eb­ra­tion by en­ter­ing a horse-drawn stage­coach from Yosemite Na­tion­al Park that was cer­ti­fied 100 per­cent Amer­ic­an Grown be­cause it was dec­or­ated with roses grown in Cali­for­nia.
“We are proud to show­case beau­ti­ful Amer­ic­an-grown flowers and greens with our eques­tri­an unit,” said Na­tion­al Park Ser­vice Dir­ect­or Jonath­an Jar­vis.
The an­tique cars car­ry­ing Rose Parade Grand Mar­shal Ken Burns, pro­du­cer of a doc­u­ment­ary on the na­tion­al parks, and oth­er dig­nit­ar­ies, were also cer­ti­fied Cali­for­nia Grown after be­ing dec­or­ated by FTD flor­ist Keith White, who said it had been “my pleas­ure to use loc­ally grown flowers.”
The cer­ti­fied Cali­for­nia Grown float makers—the Cali­for­nia State Poly­tech­nic uni­versit­ies in Pomona and San Lu­is Obispo, Mir­acle-Gro, and the Cali­for­nia Milk Ad­vis­ory Board—also had their own reas­ons for us­ing Cali­for­nia flowers.
Mir­acle-Gro said it wanted to show people “the beauty you can cre­ate even in a small con­tain­er” dur­ing the drought. The milk group said it sees a con­nec­tion between its cam­paign to en­cour­age Cali­for­ni­ans to con­sume “real” Cali­for­nia milk and dairy products, and the flower grow­ers’ cam­paign to con­vince people to buy Amer­ic­an-grown flowers.
Cali­for­nia Food and Ag­ri­cul­ture Sec­ret­ary Kar­en Ross said at a cer­ti­fic­a­tion ce­re­mony she feels “blessed” that she is sur­roun­ded “not only by the bounty of what we eat, but by the beauty of what we grow.”
The flower grow­ers have already got­ten some help from Wash­ing­ton, but they think that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion could do more.

Kath­leen Mer­rigan, the first Ag­ri­cul­ture deputy sec­ret­ary in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, ex­pan­ded her “Know Your Farm­ers, Know Your Food” ini­ti­at­ive to “Know Your Farm­ers, Know Your Flowers” at her de­par­ture re­cep­tion in 2013. Her suc­cessor, Krysta Harden, helped con­vince the White House to use only Amer­ic­an flowers at the state din­ner for French Pres­id­ent Fran­cois Hol­lande in 2014.

But since the Hol­lande din­ner, the White House has not said it used Amer­ic­an flowers ex­clus­ively at any event. The of­fice of first lady Michelle Obama de­clined to com­ment on its flower sourcing, but of­fi­cials have said privately it is a mat­ter of cost and avail­ab­il­ity.

“The White House should be all Amer­ic­an-grown,” Ka­sey Cronquist, the ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Cali­for­nia Cut Flower Com­mis­sion, said in an in­ter­view.
Just as the White House lists where in the United States the wine and food comes from, the menu at the state din­ner with Ca­na­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau on March 10 “should say ‘roses from Cali­for­nia, leath­er­leaf from Flor­ida, pe­on­ies from Alaska, and dah­lias from Vir­gin­ia,’” he ad­ded.
The Sen­ate passed a res­ol­u­tion last Moth­er’s Day sup­port­ing the Amer­ic­an grow­ers, and the bi­par­tis­an House Cut Flower Caucus wrote Pres­id­ent Obama in 2014 ur­ging him to use Amer­ic­an flowers.

It would be com­plic­ated for the White House to have an Amer­ic­an-grown flower policy. The elim­in­a­tion of tar­iffs on Colom­bi­an and Ecuadori­an flowers star­ted with a policy in the George H.W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion to move farm­ers in the An­dean coun­tries away from co­caine pro­duc­tion. The U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tion­al De­vel­op­ment has poured mil­lions of dol­lars in­to the de­vel­op­ment of the Colom­bi­an flower in­dustry.
In­di­vidu­al flower-grow­ers are still bit­ter about the U.S. aid to the South Amer­ic­an in­dustry, but flower-grow­er groups now em­phas­ize the pos­it­ive. Cali­for­nia cut flowers “meet the strict­est grow­ing stand­ards in the world, were raised in a world-class year-round en­vir­on­ment,” and “were prob­ably in the field just 24-48 hours ago,” Cronquist said.

Harry Van Wing­er­den, a Carpin­ter­ia, Cali­for­nia rose grow­er, and Mel Re­send­iz, a San Diego area pro­tea grow­er who provided flowers for the Mir­acle-Gro float and rode on it dur­ing the parade, noted that each flower farm­er has an en­tre­pren­eur­i­al story to tell. Van Wing­er­den’s fam­ily came to the United States from the Neth­er­lands in the 1960s to grow flowers and Re­send­iz, a Mex­ic­an nat­ive, worked in the fields of a farm es­tab­lished by a South Afric­an doc­tor be­fore es­tab­lish­ing his own.

“I just love what I do,” Van Wing­er­den said, as the judges gave the Mir­acle-Gro float an award for the best de­pic­tion of life in Cali­for­nia.

You must be logged in to post a comment.


FB Like Box