The American Seed Trade Association’s (ASTA) 56th Annual Vegetable and Flower Seed Conference is underway at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. AgNet Media is at the convention and spoke with ASTA President and CEO Andy LaVigne about the conference and why Disney World is a good venue for the industry.
“Part of everything that they do is the beauty of the lands that they have. They like to use the flowers, shrubbery and plantings, and they have gotten more into what they call ornamental consumables,” LaVigne said. “So you see cabbages, kales and the others that … provide color to the park, but they are also longer lasting and hardy. A lot of our flower members have their product here, and so we really are part of this park.”
LaVigne says there is a record turnout at the conference this year with “over 920 participants and 325-plus companies from 31 countries. We are excited that people see the benefit of coming together in this venue every year,” he said. “We try to stay with the East and West Coast because they are the major vegetable markets, and it gives us great access to speakers, industry participants and growers to come provide their wisdom and participate in what we do.”
LaVigne talked about some of the sessions at the conference, and one in particular that addresses the potential of a foreign market. “The benefit is we are in Florida. Florida is so close to Cuba, and they have history … Before, (Cuba) was really a hot spot for Florida agriculture and also for vacationing,” he said. “As Cuba evolves, and the relationship with the U.S. evolves, there are needs down there for agriculture especially. The University of Florida has been a very active player in that evolution … and we are able to tap into that resource. We have people that have been on the ground in Cuba — three or four times in the last year — working with their agriculture community. They are going to impart their wisdom on us.”
For those who couldn’t be in Orlando, LaVigne says ASTA will provide information from the sessions online. “For our members, they’ll be able to have access to all of our major sessions. They’ll be able to go online to BetterSeed.org and be able to see the Cuba session or the breeding session, those ones that are quite informative,” he said.
LaVigne added that some major issues facing the seed industry at this time are trade, plant breeding regulations, consumer conceptions and the upcoming farm bill. AgNet West will have more on those topics in upcoming reports.