US: Government shutdown and the upcoming Valentine’s high season

Following President Trump’s televised address on border security on Tuesday night, the partial shutdown of the federal government continued, moving the standoff in Washington into its third week.

Still, even while the shutdown continues, there are signs it could end sooner than some experts are predicting. “What we are hearing is that there are officials in the White House and in both the Republican and Democratic leadership who are finding paths for compromise,” said Shawn McBurney, the Society of American Florists’ senior director of government relations. “The challenge will be convincing the President that these compromises are a win.”

But, with a Chinese delegation expected to visit the U.S. soon to finalize trade deal details, McBurney said the administration could be increasingly motivated to end the shutdown.

“This administration has made significant progress with trade negotiations with China,” McBurney noted. “They don’t want talk of the shutdown to cloud out that news.”

A number of government agencies floral industry members depend on for services and business processes are affected in some way by the shutdown, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, State, and Transportation, along the Environmental Protection Agency and Small Business Administration.

SAF will continue to monitor the shutdown and report to its members on key issues. In the meantime, they list the most significant effects of the shutdown as they relate to the industry.

Valentine's Day
And with the upcoming Valentine's Day in mind, Christine Boldt, Executive Vice President of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida, has shared the following update on Flowers and Cents:

Christine Boldt, Executive Vice President of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida, has shared the following update:

"I had a meeting this morning with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and USDA about the upcoming Valentine’s high season.

"At the beginning of December I met with CBP and we discussed the opportunity of having the additional 12-15 inspectors come to Miami to help with the Valentine’s rush and additional volumes. CBP headquarters agreed to fund the additional staff at Miami International Airport for 4 weeks! This is huge! (Thank you CBP for working with AFIF for the flower importers)

"Then came the government shutdown.

"Today, CBP has all of the local staff working doing the inspections, not getting paid, but working to make sure that trade does not stop. All of the CBP inspectors have agreed to continue working and understand the volume increases that come with the Valentine’s season. They are also willing to work on reimbursable overtime if there’s a backup or not enough current staff on that shift.

"Because there’s go government funding the additional 12-15 inspectors that were set to come this weekend and start on Monday are on hold. Without the funding to pay for their housing, food and expenses they are not able to come. CBP says that they will continue to have them on hold and as soon as the government gets funding they will have the inspectors come to Miami.

"Since today we are not sure if we can get the additional inspectors here for the high volumes, the CBP leaders have reached out to Port Miami, Port Everglades and Ft. Lauderdale airport to see if they have any inspectors that are willing to work at MIA during the high volume season. So far they have received a few that can help with sending inspectors.

"As far as USDA there’s no change. The government shutdown does not affect the Miami identifiers or officers that oversee the fumigations. There’s no change in their services. So, if there are pest identifications needed or fumigations they are fully staffed and available.

"I am reaching out to all of the airlines to ask them to send CBP their flight schedules with anticipated volumes, try to send electronic documents to CBP ahead of the flight arrival, work on the samples for inspections ahead of time and be ready for inspections when the inspectors arrive so that they can get the inspections done quickly.

"Also, I want to remind everyone that CBP does offer inspections on reimbursable overtime if they do not have enough staff available. This is an option that is offered to the airlines (or brokers of small shipments) to have the inspections done in a timely manner.

"As soon as I have any updates on the government funding or further changes I will let all of you know."

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