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.

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