Is BloomNation Really American Made?

I know I am about to walk a fine line here, but I encourage you to walk it with me.

Recently, it was brought to my attention that BloomNation was nominated to Martha Stewart’s American Made contest. BloomNation is a new, online network of “artisan florists” that supply “handcrafted bouquets” to local and regional markets. Martha Stewart’s American Made contest is an annual competition created by Stewart to “honor and support a growing population of those makers who create beautiful and useful products, pioneer new industries, and improve their local communities.”Bloom1

I do want to acknowledge Stewart for using her immense platform to feature American Made products. She doesn’t have to

How Far is Too Far for Flowers?

 

Ivan_self This is a guest post by Ivan Van Wingerden of Ever-Bloom in Carpinteria, CA.
You can follow Ivan and his adventures at Ever-Bloom on Twitter.

Watching from behind my shopping cart, I can’t help but observe a few fellow customers scrutinizing different bunches and bouquets of flowers in the large display at our local supermarket.

The transportation footprint of flowers is important too.

I can hear them discussing color, longevity, and what room it would look best in.  They knew which flowers would likely last longer based on how open they were and appeared to have a very discerning eye for what they were looking for.

What I didn’t hear them talking about was whether they were grown at a farm or greenhouse nearby, or whether these pretty petals had a more international set of

3 Advocates of the American Grown Flowers Movement You Should Know

One of the primary objectives of the California Cut Flower Commission has been and continues to be to promote the virtues and values of California Grown flowers.  However, in a country where, over the course of the past 30 years, approximately 80% of the flowers being sold in the U.S. are now being imported from places like Colombia and Ecuador, the task of educating a consuming public as to the benefits of buying locally grown blooms seemed nearly impossible just 3 years ago.

Where your flowers come from matters. Do you know a champion for locally grown flowers? Let me know.

However, as they say, the one thing you can always count on is change.

With the growing popularity of farmers markets through out the country, U.S. consumer food safety concerns rising, the Slow Food movement and increasing demand for Made in America products, it now appears that

[Video] Why “CA Grown” Matters

If there were to be a renaissance in the flower industry, it would be to bring back American grown flowers.

A recent nationwide survey of 1,000 consumers found that 74% of people who bought flowers did not know where the flowers they purchased were grown.

Yet, in that same nationwide survey, we learned that 58% of consumers would prefer to buy CA Grown flowers over those imported, if given a choice. So, apparently where flowers come from does matter to a majority of people.

Make Her Feel Extra Special, Buy American Grown

All hands on deck at Mellano & Co, as farm workers bring the flowers and greens in from the field to meet Valentine's Day demand.

Each year I am impressed at how much media attention the cut flower and floral industry receives for Valentine’s Day.  Or maybe it’s that I’m actually more impressed at how little attention it gets, aside from our two big flower holidays; Valentine’s and Mother’s Day.

For our farms in California, it’s a rush to get the product from the field to consumers for an important holiday marked by love and romantic expectations.  For the Commission, it’s a rush to get answers, stats and interviews lined up for reporters on deadline to capture the short attention span of their readers and viewers.  However, this year I recognized a distinct theme of interest in the information being requested from the Commission.

That theme?  Origin Matters.

TIP: Red roses are classic. But pink, peach and lavender offer a unique spin. Check out these “NOT SO Usual Suspects” and ask for California Grown Flowers!

Reporters were, and are, increasingly interested in understanding where flowers come from and ask questions as to why not all flowers purchased this Valentine’s Day would be grown in the United States.  Obviously some reporters, those who call each year, are well aware that the majority of the flowers sold in the United States are from South America.  However, even they are almost always surprised to learn that less then 3% of all the roses sold in the U.S. this Valentine’s Day will be American Grown.

True story.

This graph is from a previous post I had written for Valentine's Day that you can find here: http://ccfc.org/blogs/blog/2011/03/07/where-do-your-roses-come-from-probably-further-than-you-think/

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, there are 27 rose farms remaining in California and roses continue to be a very important crop for our state.  However, relative to the production that arrived from offshore this week and last, it will be increasingly difficult for the average consumer to find, let alone identify, a bouquet of California or American Grown roses.  In fact, since federal trade policy was established in 1991 to allow for the duty free access of roses into the United States from Ecuador and Colombia, American flower farmers have seen almost all of the demand for roses move offshore (see graph above).

Ah, but with such challenge, there is the opportunity!

If a person is seeking romance this Valentine’s Day, if a person is wanting to be environmentally sensitive this Valentine’s Day, if a person is looking to mind all of the details involved with making this Valentine’s Day extraordinary for that special someone…then finding and giving a bouquet of California Grown or American Grown roses would go a long way in telling that special someone just how special they are!

Origin Matters!  Make this Valentine’s Day extra special and ASK for California Grown flowers.  It makes a difference!

  • Do you know where your flowers came from this Valentine’s Day?
  • What are you looking for when you’re buying flowers for that special someone?
  • Does origin matter to you?

America’s Flowers: Worth Fighting For by Lane DeVries

April Issue of SAF's Floral Management

Did you get your April issue of Floral Management?

Check out CCFC’s Chairman Lane DeVries’ Viewpoint article.

CCFC’s Chairman Lane DeVries of Sun Valley Floral Farms took an opportunity in this month’s Floral Management magazine to address the specific issues and concerns regarding the effect federal trade policies have had on the flower farmers of California.  Titled, “America’s Flowers: Worth Fighting For,” Chairman DeVries’ highlights that California’s flower farmers’ issues and concerns have little to nothing to do with begrudging the success of Colombian flower growers, but rather a frustration with U.S. Government’s trade policies.

“California flower farmers, by and large, don’t begrudge the success of Colombian flower growers. As a matter of fact, many good friends in the flower business are growers in Colombia and other South American countries.”

Chairman DeVries’ article was, in part, a response to February’s Viewpoint article written by SAF’s Chairman Leo Roozen titled, “Colombia: Don’t Begrudge Their Success.”  Roozen’s February Viewpoint was inspired by his recent experience visiting Colombia’s growing operations.  Chairman DeVries highlights that it is the specific U.S. trade policy concerns that have left domestic (not just California) farmers at a disadvantage, rather than frustrations with Colombia’s success and growth in the U.S. market.

Additionally, “Letters to the Editor,” from California flower farmers responding to Roozen’s Viewpoint, were sent in from David Clark of Kendall Farms and Rene VanWingerden of Ocean Breeze Floral Farms who also shared their thoughts on the fairness of the “playing field.” (pg.8).

Lane ends his Viewpoint article highlighting his hope and vision for the future ahead for California’s flower farms, saying:

“I can see a future where consumers request local flowers from local florists, and that’s a future worth fighting for.”

Congressman Mike Thompson Calls for Support for America’s Flower Farmers

As the the finer points of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement continue to be debated by Congress, the real concerns of California’s flower farmers were raised by Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) during last Thursday’s Ways and Means Committee Meeting.

Highlighting the past, present and future playing field that American flower farmers face due to federal trade policy, Congressman Thompson proposed an amendment that would provide resources to help mitigate against further farm and job loss due to “low priced, subsidized cut flowers from Colombia.”

You can hear the Congressman personally describe his amendment in this video of the Ways and Means Committee hearing here:

Congressman Mike Thompson proposes an Amendment to support America's flower farmers.

Congressman Mike Thompson proposes an Amendment to support America's flower farmers.

California’s cut flower farmers are fortunate to have such a champion supporting fair competition prior to approving a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia.  On Thursday, following the hearing, I  provided an official media statement on behalf of the California Cut Flower Commission regarding the Congressman’s proposed amendment here:

“California cut flower farmers are very pleased that Congressman Thompson introduced an amendment today to provide one-time seed money for a new national transportation and logistics center for California and US cut flower shipments. This is further proof that Congressman Thompson is a leader on agricultural and trade issues for our entire state.” [read the rest of the statement here: CCFC Media Statement on Thompson Amendment]

We now look forward to working with Thompson’s staff and the Administration to identify how best to support a national transportation center for domestic cut flower growers that will enable them to better compete on a more level and fair playing field with  imported flowers.

Counting the Costs: The Colombia FTA on America’s Flower Farmers

By Kasey Cronquist, IOM
CEO/Ambassador
California Cut Flower Commission

California's Flower Farmers Face Future Challenges with Colombia Free Trade Deal

California's Flower Farmers Face Future Challenges with Colombia Free Trade Deal

I have to say that the 4th of July is a favorite holiday of mine.  I love seeing all of the red, white and blue being proudly displayed throughout our neighborhoods, celebrating our country’s independence.  I also appreciate having that one-day a year where an exchange of fireworks across a lake is simply understood to be a friendly competition of who has more pride for our great country.

However, this 4th of July, all I can think about is flowers.

Now that’s not so strange when you realize that I serve as the CEO/Ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission and that our Commission represents over 250 family owned flower farms in California and that collectively they have a $10.3 billion impact on our economy.  However, it is the pending free trade agreement with Colombia that seems to be overshadowing my ability to fully engage in this year’s 4th of July festivities.

Anticipating a trade agreement with Colombia, our farms have been working together over the past three years to develop a cooperative transportation system to help deliver more locally grown flowers to more people nationwide.  This cooperative shipping program is expected to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and improve quality controls that would help our farms better compete with the majority of flowers that are flown in from South America.

While the pending agreement with Colombia certainly provides economic opportunity for some U.S. industries, little has been done to account for the negative impact this agreement will have on other U.S. based companies.   I am not aware of any group of people or businesses that have been as negatively impacted by federal trade policy with Colombia than United States flower farmers.  Flower farms in the Northeast are all but extinct, evidence by the fact that California now represents 80% of what is grown domestically.  California’s super-majority market share position isn’t one that has been won on its own terms.  Instead, it’s a direct reflection of the dramatic impact imports from South America have had on the ability for U.S. flower farms to compete. This has left California the only state left standing after years of fierce competition from South American producers.    While California may grow 80% of what is grown domestically, it only represents approximately 20% of what is sold.  Today 80% of the flowers old in the United States have been imported, primarily from Colombia (approx. 70%), then Ecuador.  Combine that with the fact that 85% of people do not know where their flowers come from and you can start to see the kind of problem we have here.

So, as Congress continues to debate the merits of the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama this week, I’m not confident that the negative impact that this trade deal with Colombia will have on our family flower farms in California is being carefully considered.  I can appreciate why someone like Senator Baucus wants to move this deal; it benefits his ranchers in Montana.  However, I don’t believe that there is any one person that is adding up the positives and negatives of such a deal for the United States businesses and that has a complete understanding of what will be gained and lost in an agreement with Colombia.  Instead, it appears that no one person is really “at the switch” and farms, like ours in California, may just be the collateral damage that is created by a rush to “free trade” judgment.

While we may call these agreements “free,” they certainly are not “fair.”  With $210 million in direct Colombian government subsidies between 2005-2009, millions more in US taxpayer money through Plan Colombia an USAID, lower labor costs and far fewer environmental regulations or oversight, the future deal with Colombia is far from free or fair to our U.S. flower farmers.  If passed without mitigating efforts, the unfortunate consequence of such a deal with Colombia, will be that my fellow Americans across the country will continue to unwittingly be buying more and more imported flowers, thereby pushing our domestic family flower farms out of business.

A Message from California's Flower Farmers

VIDEO: A Message from California's Flower Farmers

In addition to all of the many reason why we celebrate on the 4th of July, I want to also celebrate a country that I know has counted its costs when it comes to establishing its trade agreements and carefully accounts for all those who will be impacted.  This may in fact need to more closely resemble a nationalists trade policy approach.  Regardless, I believe it is critically important to support of our own agriculture and manufacturing sectors in order for our country to preserve the independence that we celebrate today.  I also believe that a new transportation system for shipping our California Grown flowers to be an example of such strategic support and a reasonable economic development opportunity to help balance the impact of federal trade policy.

However, this year, I have a feeling that when the fireworks start to light up the sky, I will still be thinking about flowers.

Where do your roses come from? Probably further than you think.

SuperFloral Retailing article: U.S. Flower Supply: Not a Rosy Picture

SuperFloral Retailing article: U.S. Flower Supply: Not a Rosy Picture

California Grown Flowers are America’s Flowers.

A recent report from SuperFloral Retailing magazine published the latest data available on the supply of flowers grown in the U.S. titled, “U.S. Flower Supply: Not a Rosy Picture.”  However, for U.S. rose farmers, the picture hasn’t been “rosy” for some time.  In fact, you would have to go back to 1991 to see statistics where U.S. rose farmers enjoyed the majority of market share and consumers had access to more of a regional rose production.  It was in 1991 that United States enacted the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) which provided Andean nations like Colombia and Ecuador the business incentive of “duty free” access to the United States flower market.  The purpose for this access was to cultivate legal crop production and shift the region’s dependence from drug production and trafficking.

While the actual results of this trade policy’s purpose to reduce illegal drug cultivation continues to be debated, what is not debatable is the negative impact flower imports from these countries have had on domestic flower farmers.  While U.S. rose farmers enjoyed a majority of the marketshare in 1991, their share was quickly eclipsed in the following years once the “duty free” access was granted by the ATPA.   Rose farms have continued to lose ground every year since and today make up less than 3% of all roses sold.  According to United States Department of Agriculture only 29 rose growers remain, which reflects a loss of 60 rose farms in just under ten years time.You can find these farms on the California Cut Flower Commission’s website’s grower and flower directories: California Farm Directory.

The good news is that California continues to be home to a handful of family farms still committed to growing America’s best source for high quality roses and maintaining a domestic supply of roses for people committed to “buying local.”

The Rose Race.  A visual graph representing the loss of local roses grown in the United States.
The Rose Race. A visual graph representing the loss of local roses grown in the United States.

It should be noted that this experience by California’s rose farmers is not unique.  U.S. trade policy has had a real and adverse affect on domestic flower farmers regardless of the variety they grow.  Cheaper imports continue to make domestic flower farming extremely difficult and as a result it is increasingly difficult for people to have access to a local supply of fresh cut flowers.  Recently many of California’s cut flower farms have begun to label their flowers “CA Grown” to help people identify where their flowers were grown.  This program has been well received by retailers and consumers alike.  However, while it helps to highlight the origin of the flowers, it is not able to explain that California represent almost 80% of all domestically grown flowers and really represents America’s choice for “locally grown” when compared to the amount of flowers imported and sold in the U.S.  The value of flower imports since the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) has risen 166%, while the domestic value over that same time period has fallen 20%.  California farms continue to strive to stay ahead, often cultivating new crops that are difficult for other countries to import, but some farms have given up, sold their farms or just stopped growing.

The current “Buy Local” movement and proclivity of consumers to want to support local business is something that California’s flower farmers hope to see transcend into flower buying habits.  Requirements by certified farmers markets help to ensure that people are getting what they are seeing, fresh local flowers.  However, local farms that grow fresh cut flowers are limited to only a handful of states and it take a dedicated and discerning person to walk into the average florist or retail shop and know they are walking out with America’s local source for high quality flowers . . . California Grown Flowers.

Tips on “Buying Local” Flowers:

  • Ask.  If its difficult to tell where your retailer or florists’ flowers are from, simply ask them.  They will be impressed by your flower  knowledge and discernment.
  • Look for the “CA Grown” label when you shop
  • Look for any label of origin
  • Visit ccfc.org to see what flower varieties California offers and when they are in season

Watch the Fox Business News interview (below) with California flower farmers Erik Van Wingerden and Rene Van Wingerden regarding the impact of imports on domestic flower farms.

California Rose Farmer Erik VanWingerden is interviewed by Fox Business News' Elk Worner.

California Rose Farmer Erik VanWingerden is interviewed by Fox Business News’ Elk Worner.


we’re not ready: it can get worse

“First, let me underscore President Obama’s and my commitment to the Free Trade Agreement,” she [Secretary Hillary Clinton] told RCN Television. “We are going to continue to work to obtain the votes in the Congress to be able to pass it. We think it’s strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States. And I return very invigorated … to begin a very intensive effort to try to obtain the votes to get the Free Trade Agreement finally ratified.” – Investors.com 6/11/2010

ITC Badge

The CCFC will be testifying on behalf of California's flower farms during the International Trade Commision's hearing in July in Washington DC.

Consider all cut flower farms of California warned, the Obama Administration has recently turned up its public commitment and intent to pass the pending Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CFTA, aka Colombian Trade Promotion Agreement or CTPA).  Secretary Clinton’s comments during her recent trip to Bogota, Colombia eliminates any doubt one might have had about where the Administration stood on the pending CFTA.  I was in Washington DC in April of 2008 when President Bush pushed the Colombia FTA to Congress and urged them to pass the Agreement prior to his leaving office.  At that time, Democrats cried foul, claiming that Colombia wasn’t ready, Congress wasn’t ready, the language in the pact wasn’t ready. . .until now.

Well guess what: California cut flower farmers are still not ready.

Over the past two years the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC) has been working hard in Washington DC to help highlight the extremely negative impacts that the current Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) has had on the California flower farmer.  By design, the CCFC’s focus is on California, but the same negative impacts over the past 20 years have been true for fellow flower farmers from across the country.  However, at this time, there are very few flower farms left outside of California that could unite to voice their frustration for this new trade agreement.  The CCFC is left to not only represent the voice of the California flower farmer, but the voice of all of those flower farms who are still striving to compete against the daily onslaught of flowers that are flown in from South America duty free due to the ATPDEA.

Prior to the ATPDEA‘s inception in 1991, U.S. farms enjoyed approximately 64% of the domestic market-share.  The remaining market included other import growing regions such as South America.  Fast-forward to today, South American flower farms enjoy approximately 80% of the market, while California serves less than 20%.  Over the past 20 years, California has seen generations of flower farms close their doors, give up and sell out due to the import pressures generated by the passing of the ATPDEA.  A tremendous amount of intellectual and physical properties have been lost to these imports.  That trend continues today.  South American countries, like Colombia, aren’t becoming less competitive with US legislation, they are becoming more competitive.  Passing a permanent free trade agreement with Colombia would simply compound the problems we see today.

A 2006 report by the United States Department of Labor stated that ATPDEA does not appear to have had a negative impact on US employment with the possible exception of some sectors of the cut flower industry.[15]Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andean_Trade_Promotion_and_Drug_Eradication_Act

Today’s California flower farms are certainly not the one’s from 20 years ago.  Flower farmers today have to be extremely creative, resourceful and careful to just stay in business.  They are constantly innovating, because they can’t expect that the flowers they are planting today aren’t going to be the same flowers that Colombia has on a plane destined for Miami tomorrow.  They have to stay ahead, the have to be smart and they have to avoid going head to head with import competition, because, while the access maybe “free,” the marketplace is certainly not “fair.”  California flower farms constantly strive for sustainable and conservative growing practice due to the natural and political stress on natural resources in California.  California’s flower farmers were striving for agriculture conservation far before “sustainability” became the buzz word of the day.  Flower farms in California grow in the most regulated state in the Union and face some of the strictest growing requirements, with direct supervision from the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Pesticide Regulation.  Strict pesticide regulation and controls, invasive species quarantines, agriculture permits and water restrictions are all just the day and the life of trying to grow a flower in California.  When compared to import growing costs and requirements, the playing field is simply not fair.

Significant effort continues to be made by California flower farmers to help level this playing field.   A major cooperative effort to improve floral transportation in and out of California has been underway for the past two years.  Due to the low volumes of flowers and decreased flower farms, farmers are currently developing a plan to reduce transportation costs by combining their individual flower shipments to fill more trucks.  This type of approach will not only serve to reduce costs, but it will improve flower quality, increase reliability, eliminate unnecessary duplicity while getting more California grown flowers to more people everywhere and in a more environmentally friendly method.

The California Cut Flower Commission has yet to take an official position against the pending Colombia Free Trade Agreement while we continue to work with lawmakers and administration officials to highlight the extremely negative and unfair impacts the current trade agreement (the ATPDEA) has had on domestic flower farms over the past 20 years.  Fortunately or unfortunately we have the example in the results of the ATPDEA to help show what duty free access has meant to these countries and adversely how they have impacted the ability for consumers to enjoy a more locally grown flower.

The “change” that a permanent free trade agreement would bring to this industry would simply exasperate the current trajectory of negative impacts that California’s flower farms have faced.  A permanent agreement would help encourage those international flower farm investors (note that Clinton’s quote above was taken from Investors.com), who have otherwise been dismayed by the annual review of the current ATPDEA, to finally invest their capital with the security of knowing that the access is permanently duty free.  A Colombia Free Trade Agreement, without mitigating the past, current and future impacts under regulated imports have on domestic flower farming, would simply be a nail in the coffin for the domestic cut flower farmer.