A small group of dairy executives last week participated in targeted meetings in Washington, D.C., highlighting priority issues for the dairy processing industry with Congressional leaders and senior members of the Trump Administration.
During a two-day series of issue-focused meetings, these dairy leaders discussed the need to expand the current forward contracting program in the upcoming farm bill with the two committee chairmen who will author the House and Senate versions of the legislation: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX), chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture; asked U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to assure that efforts to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) preserve the Mexican market for U.S. dairy exports and open access to Canadian markets; and met with other Congressional and administration officials to discuss burdensome regulations that affect our industry.
“Dairy foods companies employ more than 975,000 skilled individuals, generate more than $39 billion in direct wages and have an overall economic impact of more than $200 billion, so when company executives take time to come to town, both Congressional and administration leaders want to hear what they have to say,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO.
Members of IDFA’s executive committee, board officers and top PAC contributors joined Dykes; Dave Carlin, IDFA senior vice president for legislative affairs, Tony Eberhard, vice president for legislative affairs, and Clay Hough, senior group vice president for the series of high-level meetings.
The executives met with the Congressional leaders who will draft the Senate and House farm bills, as well as Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture.
The group stressed to the authors of the 2018 Farm Bill that the dairy industry needs better mechanisms for risk management, and that dairy processors and producers would benefit from less price volatility if the bill extends and expands the current forward contracting program to include all classes of milk. The group also told policymakers that they hoped to work collaboratively with the National Milk Producers Federation to develop a consensus proposal on this issue.
The bill, which will determine national agricultural policy for the next five years, will also reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The executives asked lawmakers to consider establishing voluntary incentives to encourage SNAP participants to consume more milk and dairy foods.
The group also urged the legislators to support U.S. expansion into global markets, reduce the dairy industry’s regulatory burdens and implement policies that promote efficiency and innovation.
The dairy executives raised trade issues with Amb. Lighthizer, who will oversee the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other bilateral trade agreements that could benefit U.S. dairy companies; as well as Eric Branstad, senior White House advisor at the Department of Commerce.
In the meetings the group stressed the industry’s main priority: Ensure that any NAFTA modernization efforts do no harm to the existing Mexican market for U.S. dairy exports and open market access to Canada by addressing restrictive policies that limit U.S. dairy exports.
The group also asked that the new administration focus on reducing sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to trade; opposing adoption of geographical indications (GIs) protections for common food names; and pursuing bilateral trade agreements in the Asia Pacific region, including Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia.
The new administration is very focused on reducing federal regulations so the executives sought meetings with White House officials to discuss regulatory burdens on the industry. The group met with Andrew Bremberg, assistant to the President and director of the Domestic Policy Council for President Trump, in the Diplomatic Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In the meeting, the group told Mr. Bremberg about confusing labeling requirements for ultra-filtered milk and the importance of codifying a definition of natural cheese.
Executives also took the opportunity to meet with Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-PA), to thank him for sponsoring the School Milk Nutrition Act, which aims to increase milk consumption in schools by reaffirming the requirement that milk be offered with each school meal and to improve the variety and availability of milk served in schools.
“These Congressional and administration officials are among the most important policymakers on dairy issues and the active involvement of this handful of executives was integral to securing this audience to hear our priorities,” said Dykes. “I encourage all dairy leaders to consider participating in our new, strategically timed fly-ins to Washington, D.C.”
For more information, contact Dave Carlin, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy, at email@example.com.