Tony Eberhard, IDFA Vice President of Legislative Affairs
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.”
You can almost feel the difference from last week when you walk through the halls of the Cannon, Longworth, and Rayburn House office buildings. With the House currently adjourned and most members of Congress back home in their districts for the August work period, the staff working in Washington are less rushed and more relaxed, the lines at security are shorter and the House floor is quiet.
Meanwhile, after the intense, much-publicized health care debate was set aside, the Senate has stayed in session this week, and will probably stay next week as well, to confirm more of President Trump’s nominations and to pass bipartisan bills pertaining to the Food and Drug Administration’s user fees and to care for our veterans. For the Senate, this is an ambitious two-week agenda. Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t recommend a stroll through the Senate office buildings if you’re looking for peace and relaxation.
I can’t help but think that a good share of the Senate is a little envious of the folks on the House Agriculture Committee and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue who are each hitting the road to do their own farm bill tours. That’s what you need after a long work period in the stifling Washington air, a road trip. Get the family in the car, put on some good music, roll the windows down and get some fresh air while you see the country. In Secretary Perdue’s case, he is literally taking an RV on a five-state tour of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. He wants talk to Americans involved in agriculture prior to the farm bill debate.
Not to be outdone, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) know that a road trip is a lot more fun with friends, so their version includes several members of the committee. Conaway and Peterson are conducting multiple “Conversations in the Field” farm bill listening sessions, including stops in Texas, Minnesota, California, and Illinois. In fact, they kicked off the first of these listening sessions in San Angelo, Texas last Monday before a packed house. Conaway reiterated that the committee is hard at work on the farm bill and expects to take it to the floor by the end of this year, while Peterson noted that they are working to make the farm bill bipartisan.
Their overarching message seems pretty clear to me: We’re doing a farm bill, and soon, so give us your feedback and share your solutions now.
Now is the time to make your voice heard by some of the decision-makers who will be writing the next farm bill. So, if you’re close to one of these listening sessions, this is a great opportunity to take your own road trip.