Lobbying for dairy: Is there a wrong way?

Hoard's Dairyman: 

Lobbying for dairy: Is there a wrong way?

Date: 
Mon, 05/02/2011

As we’ve said before, farmers, industry professionals, and educators need to continue lobbying for dairy as much as we can. School teachers, supermarkets, and senators alike need to be reminded of just how important dairy is to human nutrition, local economics, and the international trade balance.


But is there a wrong way to lobby for dairy?

The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily News reported this morning that two cooperative employees have contributed to the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) PAC (Political Action Committee) in March. You can read the full article here: http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20110502/NEWS02/305029981

This might be surprising, as both employees are executive-level members of cooperatives that belong to the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). March was a very aggressive month for NMPF, as the cooperative federation released their proposal to change Federal Milk Marketing Orders. The two groups have since traded “third-party studies” to show who would win and lose in their respective programs.

The two cooperatives are Foremost Farms USA, of Baraboo, Wis., and Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a national cooperative based in Kansas City, Mo. In our October 10 issue we feature a top 50 dairy cooperatives list. DFA is the top cooperative with 9,572 members and 37.700 billion pounds of milk. Foremost ranks eighth in the list, with 2,207 members and 5.390 billion pounds of milk.

Both DFA and Foremost are considered processing co-ops, and they are both IDFA members. But as the Daily News article notes, neither individual contributed the minimum reportable amount to NMPF’s PAC, and the DFA VP hasn’t given the minimum reportable amount to that co-op’s PAC since 2008.

Both DFA and Foremost hold seats at the NMPF table, and both have supported continuing efforts on Foundation for the Future. At the same time, IDFA and NMPF agree on a vast majority of subjects including raw milk, work in both the Innovation Center for Dairy and Dairy Export Council, and have both bought into the Bain & Co. study on the future of dairy.

So maybe the contributions shouldn’t be so surprising. It is up to the dairy producer-member board of directors at those respective cooperatives to decide if their employees are doing the best job to represent their co-ops.

More information:
OpenSecrets.org has a list of the 18 PACs that contributed to federal candidates during the 2010 election cycle: http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/industry.php?txt=A04&cycle=2010

They also categorize the mention of the word “dairy” in lobbying reports from 2010: http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lookup.php?type=i&q=dairy