Taking advantage of the summer months, which are typically legislative downtime in Washington, dairy processors across the country have been hosting members of Congress at their processing facilities for educational tours and policy discussions. Over the past few months, four IDFA members - Prairie Farms Dairy, The Kroger Co., Marva Maid Dairy and Unilever - each hosted members of Congress and their staff on educational tours of the companies' processing facilities.
On June 22, Prairie Farms Dairy CEO Ed Mullins, Peoria Division Manager Craig Bertrand and Plant Superintendent Steve Leman guided Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and a member of his staff through their Peoria, Ill., facility. Mullins presented Schock with a signed milk bottle that was used in Prairie Farms' Carlinville, Ill., corporate offices back in the 1950s.
On August 13, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, toured Kroger's Westover Dairy facility in Lynchburg, Va. General Manager WT Campbell led the tour and discussed food safety and internal associate safety practices.
On August 18, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and several staff members toured Marva Maid's Newport News, Va., facility with Fred Calvert, chief operating officer of fluid operations, and Tom Walker, plant manager.
"Congressman Scott spent a great deal of time viewing our operation, meeting our employees and discussing the various policy issues that are currently having the biggest impact on our business," said Calvert. "I know that he now has a better understanding of our business, and I feel comfortable that we will be able call on him in the future."
On August 20, Gregg Hewki, Unilever supply leader, conducted a tour of the company's ice cream plant in Henderson, Nev., for Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). After hearing a brief history of the plant, taking the tour and meeting several plant employees, Titus sampled product fresh from the production line.
"There is no better ways to connect on a personal level with lawmakers than by inviting them to your business and allowing them to see firsthand how it operates and what it needs to be successful," said Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president for legislative and economic affairs.
Through IDFA's GrassRoots Action Network for Dairy (GRAND) program, members are encouraged to invite members of Congress to tour their facilities. IDFA will help to coordinate the logistical aspects of the tours.
Grassroots political activity, such as a plant tour, plays a significant role in reinforcing the industry's reputation as a strong voice in Washington. Through the GRAND program, IDFA members can:
1. Identify and establish a relationship with members of Congress who represent plants, company headquarters or distribution facilities.
2. Arrange plant tours or meetings with members of Congress to discuss company or industry issues.
3. Stay in contact with members of Congress and their staff in Washington D.C. to maintain relationships and ensure that issues important to dairy processors stay in the forefront.
Members interested in arranging a plant tour for a member of Congress or getting more information on Dairy Counts may visit www.dairycounts.org, or contact Ashley Burch, IDFA assistant director of political programs, at (202) 220-3534 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) (right) toured Marva Maid's Newport News, Va., facility with Fred Calvert, chief operating officer of fluid operations.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (second from left) with WT Campbell (far left) and other employees of Kroger's Westover Dairy facility, Clarkie Patterson, Jennifer Faulkner and Danny Fullerton.