The Milk Check welcomes guest J. David Carlin to discuss the role of dairy lobbyists in Washington, how they've adjusted to the pandemic and industry outlooks during the Biden administration.
Carlin is the International Dairy Foods Association's senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy.
Ted, T3 and Anna talk with their guest about issues like how lobbying via Zoom allows for additional public input, the importance of enforcing international trade deals, volatility in dairy pricing and much more.
T3: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. Today, we have a guest. I'd like to introduce everybody to Dave Carlin. Dave is senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy for the International Dairy Foods Association. Dave, welcome. Thanks for joining us.
Dave: Thanks, Ted. Glad to be with you.
T3: Why don't you just, kind of, tell everybody a little bit about what you do? What's your job in Washington?
Dave: Well, I'm one of those lobbyists that probably keeps the town running in a lot of different ways, but we're not very popular outside the Beltway. So, that's what I've been doing in Washington for the last, oh, I guess, 30, 35 years. And I came to IDFA about six and a half years ago; grew up on a dairy farm in central Kansas. So, a little bit of a homecoming for me and decided at least that I could, if I'm going to lobby, I could lobby on behalf of an industry that I care about and believe in.
So, I'm part of a team of folks over here at IDFA that advocates for policy positions with the Congress and the administration that we think will benefit the dairy industry. And we work with our members to prioritize those policy requests and make sure that whatever we're working toward is going to be impactful and meaningful.
So we've, of course, been very active in the COVID policy debate. We work a lot on nutrition issues and trade issues, given how important trade is to our industry, and a lot of other issues that come up here in Washington. We also do little work in the economic policy area as my title, kind of, indicates. So, milk pricing issues and FMMO issues or other things that we sometimes focus on, and I get involved in here.
That's, kind of, a 30,000-foot view of what I do. I'm not walking the halls of Congress these days, that hasn't been possible since COVID started last March. So, my world, like everybody else's, is very virtual, but we've managed to create some new pathways and make it work, from a virtual standpoint. So, advocacy continues here in Washington, and hopefully, as I said, it will benefit our industry going forward. So, that's my 30,000-foot overview of what I do.
T3: As I was hearing you talk, Dave, you provided what I thought was the perfect segue. Tell us about what lobbying Congress was like during COVID, because so much happened in the last 12 months as this pandemic evolved. Kind of give us a walkthrough of how that played out, from your perspective.
Dave: Yeah, and I will start by saying it played out much better than I would have ever expected when we first got into this mess. Typically, as I said, I'm able to go to the House and Senate office buildings, I can set up meetings with staff and see members, and we did fundraisers and events in the evenings on the political side. That was what I did for 30 years and then COVID hit. And the Congress basically shut down like everything else shut down, all the buildings were closed, members were working from their home states and districts a lot of times, staff were scattered to the wind.
And I really thought, "Gosh,