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SAF puts floral research dollars and data front and center with lawmakers

Weeks after dozens of growers, wholesalers, suppliers and retailers traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Society of American Florists’ Congressional Action Days (CAD), lawmakers are giving heightened attention to key industry issues, thanks to the ongoing efforts of SAF and its members.

Since the mid-March event, SAF has coordinated with 21 congressional offices on follow-up requests for more information on the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative and the Floriculture Crops Summary.

SAFTexasGroupJodi McShan, AAF, of McShan Florist and Charles Ingrum of Dr. Delphinium Designs, both from Dallas, meet with lawmakers in the office of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during SAF’s Congressional Action Days. During CAD, SAF members met with lawmakers and key staff to explain the value of FNRI research and statistical reporting to the industry.

Before taking to the Hill during CAD, Terril Nell, Ph.D., AAF, research coordinator for the American Floral Endowment, briefed SAF members on the research and how it has played a central role in creating new technology and best practices in pest and disease management.

“Research is all about your business, it doesn’t matter the segment,” he said. “Money toward research makes it happen.”

Marvin Miller, Ph.D., AAF, of Ball Horticultural in West Chicago, stressed the importance of the Floriculture Crops Summary during the briefing, noting that it provides the floriculture industry with critical information about what crops are being sold in what quantities and where they are being grown in what quantities along with other critical data that allows growers to plan.

Within days of CAD, SAF began fielding inquiries from lawmakers’ offices for more information on FNRI and the report. SAF staff also reached out directly to specific staff to keep the momentum generated from the visits going.

Those follow-up conversations among lawmakers, SAF and SAF members show the power of first-hand testimonials — and the important role industry members can play in shaping funding priorities, said Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations.

“As the national association for the entire floral industry, SAF maintains a presence on Capitol Hill year-round, and the relationships we build certainly help open the door to these important conversations,” he said. “But it’s critical to the health of our industry that we complement our year-round efforts with these one-on-one meetings between our members and lawmakers, so that representatives, senators and their staff hear directly from the people they represent.”

The CAD funding requests this year — to support FNRI and the renewed publication of the Floriculture Crops Summary — came on the heels of significant successes last year, when SAF members successfully pitched lawmakers on increased funding for the efforts. (FNRI had seen its funding eroded by inflation and budget cuts and the crops report, which provides important information on the overall industry, was not published for several years due to budgetary constraints.)

“Lawmakers remember our members’ stories — and it’s those stories that often compel them to reach out later and ask for more information,” McBurney said. “That’s a sign we’re making progress.”

It’s also a sign that CAD meetings aren’t simply “one-off” conversations, McBurney said.

For example, Jodi McShan, AAF, of McShan Florist in Dallas was contacted by the office of Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas-5) shortly after her visit to his office during CAD. She was informed that the congressman would be supporting her requests to fund FNRI and the report.

Another example is an email to SAF Chairman Martin Meskers, AAF, of Oregon Flowers in Aurora, Oregon. Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Oregon) office not only asked for more information, it also mentioned a potential visit from the senator to Meskers’ operation — a visit that could create more opportunities to keep Oregon Flowers, and the industry, in front of Congress.

For advice on how to become more active in government relations, including tips on how to reach out to your lawmakers, email

Save the date: SAF’s 40th Annual Congressional Action Days is March 9-10, 2020.

Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management for the Society of American Florists. As the national trade association representing the floral industry, SAF is the floriculture connection to Washington.