Society of American Florists Asks, “Will Marijuana Cultivation Affect Floral Industry?”

Recent Article By SAF Raises Questions About Future Supply

Today, the Society of American Florists (SAF) published an article regarding the impact cannabis might have on the floral industry. Writer Julie Martens was tasked with calling up our farms in California to get a sense of how things might be changing since the passing of Prop 64 in 2016, legalizing recreational use in California.
Bob Echter of Dramm & Echter and Janet M. Louie of Green Valley Floral do a great job of providing their opinions and experiences with how the legalization of cannabis in California might be impacting their business.  And I know a lot of farms in California and other states feel the same way as Janet, who is quoted in the article saying, “There’s a lot of interest in growing marijuana in California, but our plan is to keep growing flowers as long as it is economically feasible. Growing flowers is much more than just a business to us, so we would like to see it continue for the foreseeable future.”So, will marijuana cultivation affect floral industry?

The simple answer is yes; it already is. However, the real question is what will that impact look like? Negative? Positive? Business as usual?

It’s really too early to tell.

Of course, it’s something I’m watching from my position as CEO of the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC). I have a front-row seat to the decisions our farms are making since the passing of Prop 64. To put an even finer point on it, the CCFC’s budget is based on the sales performance of our farms. Before the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS survey), the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) annual floriculture survey or any county commission crop report ever comes out (note: all of those reports are voluntary surveys that cover the previous crop year), the CCFC is the first to see any changes in sales and production from the reports our farms provide each quarter, significant or otherwise.

I think the SAF article does a good job of tackling this tantalizing subject, and it’s something to be aware of and watch, but I can also tell you that no one was calling when some of these same farms were investing in lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.

This is farming and farmers diversify.

It’s also important to ask, “why?” What is motivating these farms to consider selling their farms or replacing production. What is keeping flower farms from being totally successful and satisfied with their business in flowers?

I’ll tell you.

Competing for business as a flower farmer in the United States is hard. Really hard.

What’s so hard about it?

Consider that the primary competition for our farms are imports from South America, primarily Colombia and Ecuador. And California just passed a law to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Let’s just pause there.

The minimum wage in Colombia in 2017 is $1.18. The average worker in Colombia makes $246 a month.

For some perspective, the iPhone 7 in Colombia still costs over $700.

The state of California has also eliminated the ag overtime exemption that helped farms and their employees work longer hours during peak seasons.

The combination of these two issues alone will have real impacts on our farms as they try to compete with countries that do not share the same politics, social concerns, environmental standards and attention to workers’ rights.

The challenges our farms face, the pressure they feel, can be directly linked to their ability to compete in a market where flowers grown in other countries and flown to the U.S. aren’t required to meet the same standards.

It’s an issue of fair play.

U.S. flower farms play on a field (in their own country) that’s not level, and any decision to consider selling a farm or getting into cannabis production is symptomatic of a larger problem. That problem is directly linked to trade.

I certainly encourage you to read the SAF article, but I also encourage you to go deeper and follow along as we continue the “California Growing” series, highlighting current examples of California farms (including Green Valley Floral and Dramm & Echter) who are expanding, growing and further investing in flower farming.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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