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SAF, AFE Partner Up to Advance Floral Industry Research Priorities

ALEXANDRIA, VA — A groundbreaking research fund that has supported scientific innovation in the floral industry for nearly three decades is getting a boost in its effort to provide high quality, cutting-edge research today and into the future, thanks to a strategic new agreement between two longtime industry groups.

Effective Aug. 1, the Society of American Florists will continue to support the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI) through key administrative functions, including lobbying for additional funding and communicating with members of Congress so that they are aware of the importance of FNRI research to the floral industry and their constituents.

Meanwhile, the American Floral Endowment will assume the role of floral industry liaison with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for FNRI, identifying research priorities, making recommendations to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and evaluating the progress of research to ensure it is meeting its objectives.

(Caption: AFE Research Coordinator and a past SAF President Terril Nell, Ph.D., AAF, (pictured center) with North Carolinians Ted Todd and Debby Sacra of The Blossom Shop Florist in Charlotte, Mark Yelanich of Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, and Michael Trogdon, AAF, of Burge Flower Shop, Inc. in Asheboro talk about the importance of FNRI funding with Corey Brown, a legislative assistant in the office of Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), during SAF’s Congressional Action Days this past March.)

“AFE and SAF have a long history of working closely together on myriad projects, and over the past two years AFE’s Research Committee has provided expert feedback on FNRI research, making this new partnership a logical next step,” said Terril Nell, Ph.D., AAF, AFE’s research coordinator and a past SAF president. “As a nonprofit organization that funds research and scholarships in floriculture and environmental horticulture that benefit all segments of the floral industry, AFE is perfectly positioned to help identify the industry challenges and priorities best suited for FNRI research.”

Established by SAF and the then American Nursery and Landscape Association in the late 1990s, FNRI plays a critical role in generating scientific research on high-priority issues that affect all segments, including post-harvest technology, water quality and pest and disease management. Funds have also been used to create solutions to challenges posed by Ralstonia solanacearum, a bacterium that attacks geranium plants, along with pests such as whitefly and pythium. FNRI research has also led to new technology in future pest management practices, including biological controls that could reduce the use of pesticides.

Keeping the Initiative top-of-mind among lawmakers is an important task, and it’s one that SAF will continue to prioritize, with support from its third-party partner Cornerstone Government Affairs, said Drew Gruenburg, SAF’s chief operating officer, who noted that in the past two years Congress has voted to increase the Initiative’s funding level by $1 million.

(Caption: Charles Ingrum of Dr. Delphinium Designs and Jodi McShan, AAF, of McShan Florist both from Dallas, Texas, talk about FNRI research funding with legislative aides Will Batson and Jonathan Iwaskiw in the office of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during SAF’s Congressional Action Days in March.)

“Thanks to the dedication of SAF members, we’ve been able to generate an impressive level of support for FNRI on Capitol Hill,” he explained. “This is a testament to how deeply FNRI resonated with lawmakers and how valuable our lobbying efforts are, both year-round and during our annual Congressional Action Days events. We look forward to continuing in that role and to working alongside our friends and colleagues at AFE.”

Gruenburg also made it clear that the new structure will not affect SAF’s longstanding partnership with AmericanHort in lobbying for new FNRI funding or in collaborating with the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) on industry research priorities.

“SAF will continue to work collaboratively with AmericanHort to gain visibility for FNRI in Congress,” he said. “And the important interaction and sharing between AFE, HRI and USDA-ARS will remain.”

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About AFE
The American Floral Endowment is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the floriculture and horticulture industry through funding research, educational grants and scholarships. Since 1961, more than $16 million has been funded in research and educational projects, and more than $3 million has been funded in scholarships and internships designed to attract and retain the future leaders of the industry. To learn more about AFE or how you can support floriculture programs, visit endowment.org.

About SAF
The Society of American Florists is the only national trade association that represents all segments of the U.S. floral industry. SAF provides government advocacy, education and marketing advice; and connects industry members who want to learn, share ideas and grow; helps the industry recruit and retain talent; and provides guidance to the industry to prepare for and navigate the future. The association was chartered by an act of Congress in 1884. To learn more about SAF or to join, visit safnow.org.