Last month I mentioned that there would be more information regarding CCA members attending the legislative conference in Washington, D.C., April 1-4. In addition to staff members Kirk Wilbur and Justin Oldfield, we had 10 attendees from California. Justin did a great job coordinating a very busy schedule since California has one of the largest delegations he kept everyone hustling to get as many visits completed as possible as well as some outside agency meetings.
There is a great deal of political tension in D.C., as you can imagine, but not much of that spilled over into the office visits. In most cases we were able to meet with the legislators instead of just staff which isn’t to say that staff is not important, since much of the time they prep the information which determines how the legislators vote, but it is nice to have that face to face meeting to help get a reading on our representatives.
There were two legislators that had no interest in meeting with the team; neither did their staff. I find that to be totally unprofessional, especially since we pay their salaries. Typically, these meetings last from 15 to 30 minutes so you have to limit the the discussion to just a few major issues. One issue the team was lobbying was trade, specifically USMCA which is the replacement for NAFTA and is vitally important for cattle producers, and of course the Democrats are nitpicking various provisions, even though it is a far better agreement than NAFTA, really just to prevent the administration from getting another win.
The two other main subjects discussed were electronic logging devices (ELD) and wildfire. As far as ELD goes we are still trying to get a permanent fix for hours of service regulations which is very important for our producers in California. The wildfire issue, while more of a state responsibility, has is a role for our federal legislators to both encourage their counterparts in the state legislature to make the changes necessary to manage fuel loads more aggressively and also to make sure that the federal land management agencies are meeting their responsibilities and have the funding to do it.
Washington is a very special place in spite of how ugly the politics get. When you visit most major cities you realize they have their own vibe. For instance New York is a financial hub and the vibe is mostly about money and wealth. D. C. however as the capitol the vibe is about power who has it and who is trying to get it. When you are around the capitol offices there are advocacy groups and lobbyists roaming the hallways and much of the time they have name tags or pins stating their affiliation and people are constantly trying to identify who you are with just to make sure they don’t miss an opportunity to inform someone about their issues. It is a very interesting dynamic, to say the least.
“The most important take away from being in our nation’s capitol is how important it is for all of us to interact with our legislators.”
If reasonable people don’t get involved in the public policy debate, then in many cases the policy makers are operating in an echo chamber and that’s why we end up with ill-conceived legislation.
Although most of the interaction with legislators fall on the shoulders of our advocacy organizations (CCA and NCBA), it is important for all of us to get involved in a couple of ways. First, if you receive an action alert to contact your legislator about a particular issue, please make sure to do it. The reason being that since we allegedly have a representative form of government, the policy-makers need to hear from the actual people that will be affected by the policies and not only from lobbyists. Second, please consider donating to our political action committees because campaign contributions are a major factor in having input in policy development.
Finally, I hope to see many of you at our Midyear Meeting in Rancho Murieta June 19-20. This year we are at the Murieta Inn which is a new venue for us. It is a very nice facility that should meet our needs. Billy and Lisa are constantly scouting locations that are large enough to accommodate CCA and CCW activities and also negotiate the best rates they can for our members; I don’t think I need to tell you how difficult that is to do in California.