Hitting ‘The Hill’
By Bob Gatty

Snack Food Association members lobbied Congress about key issues during the annual Day in D.C. Spring Summit.
It was an exercise in democracy for some 40 Snack Food Association members when they went to Washington, D.C., May 17 and 18 for the SFA Day in D.C. Spring Summit. There, they met with members of the House and Senate, heard a fascinating presentation from a top Defense Department official, and were treated to a VIP tour of the U.S. Supreme Court. 
SFA member company executives spoke directly with congressmen and senators, asking for their support on key issues, including nutritional restrictions and labor legislation. “This was one of our most successful Day in D.C. programs ever,” said SFA President and CEO Jim McCarthy.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) opened the Day in D.C. Spring Summit with a luncheon address in which he expressed opposition to proposed restrictions in the Farm Bill, now being developed, that would create a “good food, bad food” policy limiting foods that could be purchased by Food Stamp recipients. That is a major issue of concern to the SFA, which is working with other allied groups to oppose such language in the Farm Bill, McCarthy said.
 “I don’t think the founding fathers felt that the federal government should get into what food we eat,” Roberts told SFA members at the luncheon. Instead, he said consumers should use “moderation” in their diets and called for legislation requiring schools to include physical education programs in their curriculum. The SFA also supports such legislation, McCarthy noted.
“Obesity is a big problem,” Robert said. “But it is not the proper role of the federal government to tell people what to eat.”
Addressing the Issues
After Sen. Roberts’ presentation, SFA members fanned out over Capitol Hill to meet with 33 members of Congress and/or key staff members from states with member company operations. These included Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Some of the key issues discussed included:
• Opposition to limiting choice for Food Stamp Program participants
• Opposition to redefining Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value
• Opposition to the Country of Origin Labeling provision for Processed Peanuts
• Opposition to union card check legislation, the Employee Free (Forced) Choice Act
• Support for the Fair Labor Standards Act — Motor Carrier Exemption (Overtime Rules for Drivers of Vehicles Under 10,001 lbs.)
• Support limited liability for food manufacturers (Commonsense Consumption Act)
• Support for National Uniformity for Food
• Support for requiring physical education in schools
• Support for reform of the U.S. Sugar Program
SFA members can find briefing papers on these issues in the “Members” section of the SFA Web site, www.sfa.org
A group of Ohio SFA members, led by former SFA Chairman Bob Shearer, Shearer’s Foods, Inc., met with Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) in his office, where the conversation included concerns about nutrition and obesity, but also ranged to topics such as taxes and even the war in Iraq. This was typical of many of the meetings held with SFA members and lawmakers across Capitol Hill that day.
Regula expressed support for most of the legislative issues brought up by Shearer’s group, especially his strong opposition to legislation designed to make it easier for unions to organize workers by using a card-check system instead of a secret election. He suggested that no bill could open the door to illegal aliens approving establishment of unions in plants across the nation and said there should be an amendment stating that only U.S. citizens could sign the card.
Regula predicted the bill would either be killed in the senate or vetoed by President Bush.
Mike Stick, Snyder’s of Hanover, and Daryl Thomas, Herr Foods, Inc., met with Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and aides to Sens. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA).
In a meeting with Sen. Specter’s legislative aide, Patrick Stanko, Thomas addressed most of the issues that brought SFA members to Washington. In discussing health and nutrition, he pointed out that the snack food industry is evolving with a “broad portfolio” of products.
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) told SFA members from his state that he is concerned about healthcare costs and obesity. He also expressed support for SFA efforts to defeat the union card check bill, establish uniform food labeling, limit lawsuits against food companies by obese consumers and solve the “overtime problem” caused by transportation safety legislation.
Meeting with him were Nick Chilton, Wyandot, Inc.; Dan McGrady, Wyandot; Mike Harper, Jim Rudolph and Rich Rudolph, Rudolph Foods Co.; Bob Shearer, Melissa Shearer, and Scott Smith, Shearer’s Foods, Inc.
Lawmakers and staff members alike clearly were pleased to hear from SFA members and to be appraised of their concerns regarding issues that would affect their companies which provide jobs in their districts and states.
On to the Supreme Court
On Friday, May 18, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. greeted SFA members for a special tour of the court, one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Washington, D.C. Chief Justice Roberts outlined the court’s history and answered questions.
SFA members were fascinated by an informal presentation by Under-Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Tina Jonas, who controls the $488 billion Department of Defense budget.
“Despite the political rhetoric, people in Congress are serious about doing the right thing for the nation,” she said. Jonas encouraged snack food companies to contribute products to the USO for troops who visit USO locations at America’s airports. 
SFA members covered a lot of ground during their two-day Spring Summit, both literally and figuratively, breaking in their walking shoes as they crisscrossed Capitol Hill for meetings with lawmakers and covering a substantial list of issues.
“This was a great opportunity,” one SFA member commented. “I think we got a lot accomplished.”