Working Together From Farm to Fork

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015   /  Tags: D.C., farm, food

MTA was recently featured in a column in the June edition of the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) monthly newsletter. FIAE represents a network of local, state, regional and national food associations through the U.S. and Canada.  MTA stresses the importance of education and collaboration with the continually changing environment of the Hill.  You can read the full article below.

 

Working Together From Farm to Fork

More than six months have passed since the 2014 midterms and believe it or not, attention will soon turn to the impending presidential elections. The continuous cycle of change on Capitol Hill reiterates how important your outreach is to ensuring that the many new faces in D.C. understand the issues that matter most to you. And it’s a reminder that the silos that divided the food and agriculture industries in the past do not exist today.

The 114th Congress famously brought with it Republican control of the Senate and a larger majority in the House. But some other statistics also illustrate the need for continued relationship building. Nearly half of the current Senate has served less than one full term. And about one-third of all Representatives have fewer than two years of experience in the House.

As we near the midpoint of the year, it’s a good time to review what is on Washington’s legislative agenda for the coming months.  In the world of agriculture and food policy, regulatory actions such as the dietary guidelines and pending menu labeling rules have taken center stage in 2015, along with hot button topics such as GMO labeling and food ingredient safety.

I think it is fair to say that the issues that traditionally impacted the “farm” side of the production chain are now more closely aligned with the “fork”, and vice versa. Consumer attitudes toward the food industry are having more and more of an impact on production practices. So far this year we have seen announcements from prominent companies calling for changes at the farm level due to increased demand from vocal consumers, be it related to antibiotics, biotechnology or animal welfare.

In many instances, it is your members, the grocers and retailers, who are on the frontlines, interacting with the public firsthand on these topics. We know that most grocery shoppers aren’t thinking about the best way to “feed the world” while they fill their carts.  They care about what’s on their plates and keeping their families safe and well fed.

The public looks to the Internet and social media for information about their food… even though those information sources are sometimes far from science-based. These passionate consumers then use their online influence to advocate for legislation, ingredient bans, or ballot initiatives. And it’s unlikely that this trend will go away.

The cycle of change in Washington also drives home the need for continued education on these issues with your elected officials. The last Farm Bill was signed into law in February 2014 – but today, 72 current members of the House were not yet in D.C. when that bill was voted on. The number of new Members since the vote on the Food Safety Modernization Act in December 2010 is far greater than that.

When it comes to consumer perception and public policy alike, silos simply cannot exist between the agriculture and food industries. It is critical that we continue to build bridges and work with nontraditional allies. After all, now is the time to prepare for the next wave of change in Washington. And what happens in one silo impacts the others.

Food and agricultural organizations that need the right results in Washington, D.C. can trust Michael Torrey Associates to put its relationships, reputation and expertise to work on your issue. Since 2005, the firm has successfully provided legislative and regulatory guidance, issues management and association management services to a wide variety of clients. Learn more about us at www.torreydc.com or contact us at info@torreydc.com