Dairy Leaders travel to mid-west, nation's capital on political advocacy tour

By Melissa Lema, field representative for districts 1, 3, 10, and California Dairy Leaders class participant.

The six-member California Dairy Leaders Class XII traveled this past week to Chicago, Indianapolis and Washington D.C. during the fourth session of our comprehensive dairy industry leadership program.

dairy leaders us capitol-smallFor the first time, this year’s class members were treated to a day with Dairy Management Incorporated (DMI) in Chicago. Our time was spent discussing new brand partnerships to promote the consumption of dairy products domestically, the exploration of an expansion into foreign markets, a tour of the brand-new social media newsroom, as well as a workshop on the different types of social media we could use to tell the story of our farms. Following our day with DMI the class traveled to Indianapolis to learn from Elanco. Our hosts provided the group for a day of discussion on emerging technologies, dairy’s role in reducing hunger worldwide, a tour of the facility and a workshop on the six practices of persuasion.

After a quick flight to our nation’s capital on Saturday morning the group had some down time to tour the city over the weekend. Stops at the National Archives, American History Museum, a walk of the National Mall and almost every other monument in the Capital City our pedometer showed that we had walked over 10 miles in two days!

L-R: Cristina Vieira, Elysha Bergwerff, Melissa Lema, Katherine Nissen, Deanna Martin, Paul Van Puijenbroek

We kicked off Monday morning with a visit to National Milk Producers Federation and the US Dairy Export Council and had the opportunity to learn much more about NMPF’s legislative work, the revitalization of the “REAL” milk seal, and USDEC’s work opening in the area of export markets.

As we prepared to leave NMPF we learned of the tragedy at the U.S. Navy Yard, and the rest of the day experienced a little taste of the reality of the nation’s capital when there is a potential terrorist attack. Our next stop was at the USDA, where we discussed dairy policy, FMMO and the impending Farm Bill with Under Secretary Ed Avalos and Dana Coale of the AMS-Dairy Marketing Branch. The Under Secretary shared with us his concern for the industry as a whole, and related that he has witnessed the tough dairy economy first hand in his home state of New Mexico.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent on Capitol Hill discussing a variety of issues with members of the California delegation. Topics ranged from Farm Bill, immigration reform, to trade and ethanol policy. The lawmakers and staff we met with were from a variety of backgrounds and political affiliations, but all were sensitive to our concerns. We were very fortunate to spend Tuesday evening with Congressman Valadao discussing the above issues over dinner and an evening tour of the Capitol.

California Dairy Leaders Class XII members are: Elysha Bergwerff, Bergwerff Farms Inc., Oakdale; Deanna Martin, USDA Farm Service Agency, Stockton; Katherine Nissen, Nissen Dairy Inc., Escalon; Paul Van Puijenbroek, De Snayer Dairy, Lodi; Cristina Vieira, A&C Vieira Dairy, Turlock; Melissa Lema, Western United Dairymen, Ferndale.

Posted: Sept. 20, 2013 WUD Friday Update