I have been enjoying attending our Member Barbecues, CSU Annual Flower Trials, and the Welby Summer Flower Trials – it is great to see everyone in person again. I am so glad we can get back together. But I am reluctant to say, “I can’t wait for things to get back to the way they were,” because we need to be looking AHEAD, not back. For the sake of our industry and our businesses, we need to turn our focus forward and determine how the past few years have altered the landscape.
At the Cultivate convention in Ohio, AmericanHort CEO Ken Fisher presented three questions we all should ask ourselves: Is my organization performing at the optimal level? Is my business growing at an optimal level? Am I positioning my business well for the future?
As we look to the future, we have to consider the growing importance of advocacy to our industry. What is advocacy? If you look in online dictionaries, there are a few relevant definitions: Public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. The act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. The act of speaking on the behalf of or in support of another person, place or thing.
One of CNGA’s primary roles is to be your advocate. Whether it is with the federal government in Washington, D.C., the statehouses in Denver and Santa Fe, or even with your city council or county government, we are there to speak for you. The voice of many outweighs the voice of few. And in the spring, when you are crazy busy, receiving plants and trees, coordinating transportation and logistics, hiring people, and possibly filling in as a truck driver, we take the time to sit in on and participate in bill testimony and public hearings for legislation that will affect how you do business.
We do this in numerous ways – AmericanHort conducts most of our lobbying in D.C. However, on alternating years, a group from Colorado travels to Capitol Hill, to participate in “Impact Washington – The Summit,” to hear briefings on matters important to our industry, and most importantly, to conduct visits with our Congressional representatives and their staffs. Lawmakers and their staffs are much more interested in hearing directly from business owners in their state than from lobbyists. CNGA will be participating in this program again this September.
In Colorado, CNGA is part of GreenCO, an alliance of seven trade associations representing all facets of the horticulture and landscape industries. Our combined contributions allow us to hire a lobbying firm, currently Hicks and Associates, to represent our interests at the state capitol. CNGA also participates in Ag Council, an entity that pulls together statewide agriculture organizations that represent and serve Colorado agriculture producers. In New Mexico, we work with member nurseries and greenhouses as well as related industry organizations such as the National Association of Landscape Professionals and CropLife America when legislation arises which concerns us.
On a smaller scale, CNGA can go to bat for you with your city or county organizations as well. In January, the city of Colorado Springs switched over to controlling its own utility locate program. The new rules and how they were being enforced were very detrimental to nurseries planting trees for customers. CNGA was able to reach out to the Colorado Springs City Council to bring some attention to the matter, and things have improved.
The most obvious, visible benefits of being a part of CNGA may be our educational opportunities and our networking/fellowship events – but the portion of time we spend on advocacy may be the most valuable in the long run. When you think about how CNGA advocacy works for you, remember:
- Advocacy kept your businesses open during the pandemic when most were closed.
- Advocacy reopened New Mexico nurseries and greenhouses after they had been shut down.
- Advocacy ensured that nurseries and greenhouses were included in USDA’s Coronovirus Farm Relief packages.
- Advocacy ensured that horticulture was considered part of agriculture in the exemptions for new trucking hours of service/electronic logging device rules.
- Advocacy defeated a restrictive neonicotinoids bill in New Mexico.
- And currently, advocacy is working to ensure that Colorado Senate Bill 21-087 (Ag Workers’ Rights) rulemaking is fair to all agriculture industries, including our own.
Advocacy may not be very visible, but it is valuable. We may only hear about our advocacy efforts when they fail, and a bill makes it through that causes change, expense and inconvenience. But we are always there, working for you, trying to ensure that our industry remains strong and prepared for the future. Thank you for your continued membership, which supports these efforts.