Impact Washington 2023

By Glenda Mostek, CNGA Executive Director

“There are actually people in Congress who have common sense and want to get things done!” This is a revelation for many, because the news is focused on those that are obstructing progress, rather than trying to improve things. But CNGA’s delegation saw some good examples of Members of Congress working together in our nation’s capital.

CNGA recently participated in Impact Washington, AmericanHort’s bi-annual “fly-in.” A fly-in is an event where members of an organization from around the country fly into DC and visit their state’s Senators and Representatives all at the same time. There were about 125 of us from all around the country who met up for some preparatory meetings and training, and we heard from current and past officials about how governance takes place (or doesn’t take place) in our country. Multiple speakers remarked that there are a small percentage of elected officials on the far right and the far left who hold up the process of lawmaking, and that most of our elected officials fall somewhere in the middle and are willing to compromise and get things done.

The Colorado/New Mexico delegation consisted of Matt Edmundson, Andrew Lisignoli, and Glenda Mostek. This is the first time we have had a New Mexico member join us for this event, so it was great to go see some New Mexico offices as well. We visited the offices of Senators Hickenlooper and Bennet from Colorado, Colorado Representatives Caraveo and Pettersen, and New Mexico Representatives Teresa Leger Fernandez and Melanie Stansbury. And Matt Edmundson was on the same flight as Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper from Denver to DC on Monday of the week, so he got a chance to visit with them directly.

While AmericanHort has a variety of current advocacy issues, the main focuses for these office visits were to let elected officials know our thoughts and positions:

  1. Please don’t let the government shut down.
  2. Let’s get the Farm Bill passed.
  3. Help us with workforce – H2A and H2B programs.
  4. Fund horticulture research to help us improve our industry.

The Colorado and New Mexico offices we visited were all very receptive to our ideas and positions. While the Farm Bill wasn’t passed by September 30, current programs are authorized through December 31, meaning there is more time there for a completely new bill or an extension. One of the challenges is that half of the members of the House Ag Committee are very new to Congress and so this is their first Farm Bill, and they have a steep learning curve.  One of the speakers we heard from on the program was Representative Jim Costa (CA-21-D). He is a member of the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” which is an independent member-driven group in Congress, composed of representatives from across the country—equally divided between Democrats and Republicans—committed to finding common ground on many of the key issues facing the nation. Colorado’s Rep. Brittany Petterssen (7-D) is also a member of this group. Costa has introduced two bipartisan bills that will help specialty crop growers (including horticulture). One of these is the Specialty Crops Domestic Market Promotion Program Act – which would help specialty crop producers market their products to access American markets. He is also promoting the Specialty Crop Mechanization Assistance Act, which would make it easier for specialty crop producers to remain competitive in the face of labor shortages by making expensive automation technology more accessible to producers. This bill aims to create a reimbursement-based cost-share program that would permit growers and processors to invest more in time and money-saving technologies.

So, while you may only hear about those who are preventing the legislative process from going forward, you can rest assured that many of your Congressional delegates are indeed working hard every day to govern responsibly. And AmericanHort and CNGA are making sure that your voice is heard in their offices, as well as at our state capitol.