Executives from scores of IDFA member companies met with congressional leaders and staff on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss key policy issues, including proposals to reform federal dairy support programs, food safety legislation and reauthorization of federal nutrition programs. The executives were in town to attend IDFA's annual Washington Conference and the 28th Annual Ice Cream Party on Capitol Hill.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (pictured), a member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, addressed a packed room of attendees at the Insiders Breakfast on Thursday. They shared their perspectives on current policy discussions and pending legislation affecting the dairy industry.
Noting that 95 percent of the world's customers are outside of the United States, Klobuchar said she sees a "world of opportunity" for dairy in the areas of innovation and exports. "I truly believe we can no longer sit on the sidelines and let the world pass us by. We must promote innovation, and it's Washington's job to help you," she said.
She also commented on the pending food safety legislation and reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, saying she expected both to be brought to vote by the end of the year.
2012 Farm Bill Will Bring Challenges
Lucas spoke of many threats to business that he sees in the current activities of Congress, but his comments centered on the 2012 Farm Bill.
"I agree we should begin the process now, but there are several challenges," he said. "This time around, we'll be lucky if we have as much money as last time. My challenge is to make sure that the resources are there. "
He urged members to get to know their Congressmen and to "press your opinions and perspectives politely but firmly."
Joining the lawmakers on the agenda was Ann Wright, deputy under secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She mentioned the work of the Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, which has met twice so far and will meet once more in September before submitting recommendations to the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. She also discussed USDA's efforts to support the "Let's Move!" initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and the administration's Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which aims to expand access to nutritious foods in underserved areas.
"We have an open door to a whole set of interesting business ideas," she said. "We're looking to you to bring your ideas about how all these initiatives can work."
While in Washington, the attendees had additional opportunities to meet with other top officials from USDA, as well as legislators from their home states.
Click here for a few photos featured in Politico.
Thank You, 2010 Washington Conference Sponsors!
IDFA would like to thank the sponsors who helped to make this week's Washington Conference and Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party such a success. IDFA staff members served more than 1,600 gallons of ice cream and frozen yogurt, 6,000 root beer floats and 44 cases of sundae syrups to thousands of congressional leaders, their families and staff at this year's party.