By Tony Eberhard, IDFA Vice President of Legislative Affairs
Welcome to “Hill of Beans,” a periodic update by Tony Eberhard about the association’s work in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to advance dairy industry priorities. After working on the Hill for various members of Congress and senators since 2001, Eberhard gives IDFA readers a former Hill staffer’s take on what is going on and how it affects our priorities.
“There is a lot of work being done in the House and Senate that never makes the headlines but affects members’ bottom lines, and I’m hoping these updates will prove useful to you and your organization,” Eberhard said. “I’m titling these updates ‘Hill of Beans’ because to many in national media this information might not amount to much, but to our industry’s agenda in Congress, it is critical.” Read the inaugural update below.
The Heat Is On
As our June fly-in leaders could tell you, it has been surface-of-the-sun hot in Washington. Still, I don’t know if it’s hotter on the pavement or in the halls of Congress where the legislative activity in the House and Senate is boiling over.
I can tell you that the summer months bring a heavy workload for senators, members of Congress and their staffs. Between committee hearings and markups, the appropriations process, busy meeting schedules, heightened floor activity and making progress on their own legislative agendas, most congressional offices are running at full capacity.
Oh, and as you may have heard, there are a few special, high-profile items on the congressional agenda. The Senate will likely take up the Republican repeal and replace health care bill this week and a debt ceiling increase next month, and it will continue to plow through confirmation of the President’s nominations throughout the year. Meanwhile, Speaker Paul Ryan, who spoke at length to our fly-in group, is pressing forward on permanent tax reform, aiming for passage by the end of the year. You may have also caught wind of a few Russia-related investigations.
Against this backdrop of weighty policy battles (recall that the last tax overhaul was in 1986), there is also a lot of heavy lifting being done in Congress on legislation that receives few headlines: Farm bill reauthorization comes to mind.
Farm Bill Reauthorization
Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are working on reauthorizing the farm bill before many of its programs expire near the end of 2018. Notably, Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and his staff have committed to an aggressive timeline, and I would not be surprised if the House Agriculture Committee is ready to markup its version of the farm bill in September.
That’s why IDFA has been working to highlight our forward contracting and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dairy incentives priorities to key players such as Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), David Scott (D-GA) and David Rouzer (R-NC). And, we can’t stop there: We are going to make sure every member on the House Agriculture Committee has heard our message that policies to grow demand for dairy are good for everyone in the industry, just as increased consumption of dairy is good for Americans’ health.
We have a window to make our case and deliver our specific policy ideas to the House Agriculture Committee, but that window will close. I can tell you that members of Congress and staff will eagerly hear our ideas up to the point that we’re proposing those ideas after they have written a bill. If you feel a sense of urgency out of IDFA on the topic of the farm bill, this is why. We truly need to strike while the iron is hot (as you can see, I’m not going to drop this whole “heat is on” analogy).
The great thing about Capitol Hill in the summer is that all of this activity presents great opportunities for moving IDFA’s legislative agenda. Let’s hope the heat sticks around.