During IDFA’s second strategic fly-in of 2019, dairy leaders met with members of Congress and senior administration officials to discuss top priority issues for the dairy processing industry. The two-day event this week focused on ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), China tariffs and Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

This week presented a perfect opportunity to visit Capitol Hill and advocate for USMCA ratification, a top priority for IDFA members and the dairy processing industry. There have been several positive actions in the past few weeks to increase the momentum in support of congressional ratification of the agreement, including a de-escalation of the tariffs between the United States and Mexico. Yesterday, Mexico’s government approved the agreement.

IDFA is urging Congress to ratify the USMCA before members leave for their month-long summer recess in early August. In addition to trade, the group discussed the provisions that the dairy industry hopes will be included in a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, which could be brought before the Senate Agriculture Committee next month.

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Dairy executives meeting with Ambassador Gregg Doud and Ambassador Jeff Gerrish
at the U.S. Trade Representative offices.

A Packed Schedule

The fly-in included a meeting with top leadership in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), as well as members of the Senate and House of Representatives to discuss trade issues and child nutrition. The agenda included meetings with:

  • Ambassador Jeff Gerrish, deputy U.S. trade representative, USTR
  • Ambassador Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator, USTR
  • Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
  • Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y.
  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.
  • Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
  • Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.
  • Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind.
  • Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va.
  • Senior staff of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.


IDFA staff and the executives also hosted
a dinner for Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

Dairy Decision-makers

The dairy executives participating in the fly-in were:

  • Lesley Bartholomew, director of communications, Wells Enterprises, Inc.;
  • Wilf Costello, chief commercial and marketing officer, Glanbia;
  • Scott Graham, vice president of supply chain, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.;
  • Ken Jorgensen, director, dairy operations, H-E-B;
  • Jeff Kaneb, executive vice president, HP Hood LLC;
  • Chris Olsen, vice president, community and government relations Americas, Tate & Lyle Custom Ingredients, L.L.C.;
  • Erick Opsahl, senior vice president, legal affairs and general counsel, Wells Enterprises, Inc.; and
  • Mike Wells, president and CEO, Wells Enterprises, Inc.


Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party

The fly-in culminated Wednesday afternoon with IDFA’s Congressional Ice Cream Social in the U.S. Capitol. Members of Congress stopped by to chat with the dairy executives and grab a bowl of delicious ice cream donated by IDFA members.

Following the Ice Cream Social, the executives headed outside to celebrate the Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party, where more than 1,500 gallons of ice cream and 2,000 root beer floats were served to thousands of guests in a park overlooking the Capitol reflecting pool.

IDFA members interested in learning more about strategic fly-ins can contact Colin Newman, IDFA manager of legislative affairs and political programs, at cnewman@idfa.org.