You’ve probably heard someone use the phrase, “let’s just agree to disagree.”
It’s often used when you get to that point in a conversation with your spouse, friend or colleague where neither side is budging on their opinion or perspective regarding an issue and someone finally says, “well, let’s just agree to disagree.”
This phrase seems to sum up the relationship between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and America’s flower farmers regarding the Boarder Adjustment Tax (BAT) being proposed by House Republicans as a part of their “blueprint” on reforming the nation’s tax system.
During their annual Congressional Action Days in Washington, D.C., SAF members lobbied Congress to support the BAT, but requested an exemption for imported flowers. Their exact position read:
“Support comprehensive tax reform by simplifying the tax code and reducing rates, but exclude imported floral agricultural products from a border adjustment tax.”
This position stands in stark contrast to the position Certified American Grown flower farmers took to the Hill just weeks earlier. Our delegation representing American flower-farming families lobbied in support of the BAT as an important step toward leveling the playing field with countries like Colombia that not only enjoy duty-free access, but are incentivized by a value-added tax system that refunds 16 percent to exporting goods. Our exact position read:
“Develop a Border Adjustment Tax to make sure that the playing field is leveled for U.S. agriculture and industry with competitors from abroad.”
I received calls of concern and frustration from farmers who attended SAF’s Congressional Action Days, including CCFC Chair Diana Roy of Resendiz Brothers who had joined her fellow flower farmers in Washington, D.C. , just weeks before.
Farms were caught off guard by SAF’s position, and were frustrated that they were being asked to go “carry the water” on a request to exempt imported flowers from the proposed BAT, especially since the proposal from the Republicans is in such an early stage of development of concept.
The CCFC sent a letter to SAF’s CEO Peter Moran to put a fine point on the disappointment and frustration farmers felt with SAF’s request to exempt imported flowers. The letter requested that SAF “move toward a more considerate position for all of your members involved.” You can read the letter here.
Moran replied in a letter saying, “SAF’s position is not meant to denigrate California flowers, but as stated in our position paper, domestic production itself cannot meet national demand and that is not due to price of globally sourced product but rather domestic capacity.”
Basically, Moran is implying that domestic farms aren’t capable. He is suggesting that some sort of massive surge of domestic flowers would be needed should a BAT be implemented, and that America’s flower farmers aren’t in the position to meet that demand.
This, of course, is a false argument and suggests that consumer demand would somehow have to immediately shift to domestic farms, or that imports would no longer be viable in the U.S. market. Imports are here to stay. A BAT would not turn imported flowers away. The BAT would not be a ban on imported flowers, but rather a way in which we could finally see fairness applied to U.S. trade policy. A BAT would help level the playing field with imported blooms and allow our American flower-farming families to better compete with offshore production.
After watching what the past 25-year trade relationship with Colombia has looked like, there is no surprise that America’s flower farmers would support a BAT on imported flowers. Today, imports make up approximately 75 percent of flowers sold in the U.S. because of the advantages they have been given to access our market through duty-free trade policy, government subsidies, little to no regulatory oversight on production practices and low labor costs.
With Republicans proposing a BAT, now is the time to discuss how to bring American jobs back home, level the playing field for our American flower farmers and create an economic environment that encourages more domestic production.
That is what our farmers will continue to lobby for, and we’ll have to respectfully “agree to disagree” with SAF.
BONUS: Listen to me discuss the BAT policy differences between SAF and America’s flower farmers during my interview with Debra Prinzing on her Slow Flower Podcast: Episode 291: What’s Happening in Washington, D.C. and a flower farming policy update