On June 16th and 17th, two things came together that are not normally associated with each other – ice cream and politicians.

On June 16th and 17th, two things came together that are not normally associated with each other – ice cream and politicians.  On these days, the IDFA holds it’s annual Washington Conference, with an objective of bringing key players in the dairy world together with key political players in our nation’s capital.  The idea is to facilitate communication between the two factions, with the hope that through face-to-face dialogue, dairy processors can impress upon our nation’s lawmakers which issues are of utmost importance to our industry, as well as get a sense of where Washington stands on those issues.

 Day One of the conference started with a lunch to brief attendees on current policy issues up before Congress.  Speakers analyzed the policies and examined them from all angles to assess the potential impact on our industry. Armed with information, attendees then attended personal meetings with their representatives in the House and Senate.  This year, dairy leaders participated in more than 120 meetings with members of Congress.

 There is an adage that says “You get more bees with honey.”  Frankly, I’ve never understood that saying, as I always thought bees MADE honey.  In any case, the IDFA’s strategy is ingenious: Who can resist ice cream?  The politicians are lured to Upper Senate Park by the promise of a variety of flavors of cold, creamy, mouth-watering smoothness, in the form of floats, sundaes, or simple cups.  What better time to discuss policy and attempt to influence change than when your representative’s endorphins are peaking and all is good and right in their world? 

Your favorite IDFA staff members issued a whopping 1,600 gallons of ice cream and frozen yogurt, 6,000 root beer floats (my family can account for 4!) and over 40 cases of sundae syrups to thousands of congressional leaders, their families and staff at this year’s party.  The IDFA promoted this event as a “family-friendly” event, and so I brought my mother, Nancy Vodraska, and two children along with me.  Sophie, age 8 ½ and Noah, age 11, met other children of members, many of whom have been attending the Washington Conference for years.  We enjoyed an IDFA-sponsored tour of the Capitol, the high point of which was the ride on the Senate train (the kids liked the train, my mom liked being one car behind John Kerry).  After the tour we moved over to Upper Senate Park and refreshed ourselves with root beer floats and sundaes, and then wandered over to the face painting and balloon animal tables for even more fun.

Day Two started with breakfast and speeches by U.S. Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee.  Additionally, Ann Wright, deputy under secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, updated attendees on the status of Dairy Industry Advisory Committee and the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. 

 While conference attendees participated in PAC Steering Committee Meetings, congressional visits, and a Senate Ice Cream Social, families enjoyed a taste of history as they toured magnificent Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation on the banks of the Potomac.  One thing is for sure, Washington knew the meaning of the phrase, “location, location, location.”  Mount Vernon has one of the most gorgeous views imaginable.  In addition to touring the grounds, gardens, and outbuildings (we even saw Washington’s very own dairy!) we were treated to a special “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets” tour, where we were shown areas where the blockbuster movie was filmed.

The family and I enjoyed ourselves so much this year that we plan to make the trip again next year.  I would highly recommend adding the Washington Conference to your 2011 calendar if you haven’t already, and plan to bring the family!