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Perspective:
Industry Issues

2012 — A year of policy and politics

Connie Tipton

Connie Tipton is president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. She contributes this column exclusively for Cheese Market News®.

If ever there was a year to get involved in policy and politics, this is it.

This month, both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees seem to be cranking into high gear to try to address Farm Bill issues, and there is a lot at stake for dairy.

Most of the industry agrees we need new policies that work to provide a safety net for our farms, and it would be best for everyone if that safety net could appear sooner rather than later. That’s one of the messages that Jon Davis, president and CEO of Davisco Foods International, Inc., delivered this week when he testified on behalf of IDFA at the House subcommittee hearing on dairy.

Unfortunately, the problem of finding agreement on the best way to provide that safety net is far from resolved. That’s why it remains so important for members of Congress to hear from you and receive your input. They need to understand the real implications and consequences of current proposals on the table so they can make better informed decisions.

IDFA continues to ask members of Congress to adopt safety-net proposals like margin insurance or the Livestock Gross Margin – Dairy program. We like these programs because they do not attempt to help producers by imposing government control of the supply and demand for milk and will not have the negative consequences of supply-management programs.

We now know that a milk supply-management program, similar to the Dairy Market Stabilization program in the Dairy Security Act proposed by Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is included in Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow’s, D-Mich., mark. Although this program is being sold to Congress as a way for the government to control milk price volatility, IDFA believes it will hamstring a growing dairy export business, discourage investment into processing facilities and ultimately hurt new or expanding dairy farms by limiting increased demand for more milk production.

Even as we remain divided on contentious issues like this, it’s clear to me that the ultimate goal of all dairy stakeholders is the same: We want the best government policies to help the dairy industry to grow, to prosper and to market an array of increasingly innovative products that will meet consumer demands around the globe. The opportunities are enormous and continue to grow, so positioning the U.S. dairy industry to take full advantage is key.

You can play a part in helping to shape the new policies that will make that happen. And IDFA will provide some opportunities for your greater involvement.

In less than two months, we’ll hold Washington Conference, IDFA’s legislative fly-in. For two days, June 20-21, our members will attend meetings with legislators and their staff members on Capitol Hill. They’ll also participate in the 30th Annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party (a really cool event!), which is attended every year by several thousand staff and members on the Hill.

As for the politics, the campaigning has already begun, with all 435 House seats up for grabs, 33 Senate seats on the ballot and, of course, the feature event at the top of the ticket deciding who gets to call the shots for the rest of the government. Will it be a continuing President Barack Obama, or a new leader such as Mitt Romney? Time will tell.

While all of the policy and politics remain incredibly relevant to your business and how it fares, as the years have gone by, there has been a steady erosion of opportunities to include Capitol Hill leaders and their staff in events taking place beyond the Beltway.

That’s why this year we’re providing an occasion in our nation’s capital for the industry to interact with key people in Congress and the administration. Our new Policy & Politics Conference, Sept. 20- 21, will showcase a variety of policy makers located in D.C. so you can hear firsthand what’s happening, why we are in the current state of flux and if they’re doing anything about it. We also hope to hear their predictions for the future.

You can make a difference in all of this through your participation and involvement. As Americans, we are fortunate to have the rights and privileges not only to speak up and be heard, but also to vote and participate in shaping how we will be governed in the future.

Everything we have and want for our kids and grandkids is at stake in the November elections. Don’t sit on the sidelines — join us in D.C. for our June fly-in and September Policy & Politics Conference.

Get involved and make a difference!

CMN

The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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