A number of folks have asked just what the heck I was doing in Washington, D.C. last week. Besides taking fun pictures for my little one, I was actually politicking. Dakota Rural Action sent me out to attend the White House Community Leaders Briefing Series. We also figured that, while I was in the capital of the free world, I might as well drop in on our Congressional delegation and give them Dakota Rural Action's take on some important issues. Here's a rundown of the political side of my trip to D.C.
I flew in Thursday afternoon and took the Metro (hooray for mass transit!) straight across the Potomac to the Capitol South station. A short, hot walk up First Street brought me to the office of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, where I got a briefing on the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration Rule from WORC's Sara Kendall. Dakota Rural Action and at least 65 other farm organizations think implementing the GIPSA rule would restore fair market practices for independent farmers and ranchers against the near-monopoly power big corporate packers have exercised for generations. Big packers feel otherwise and got a majority of the House to attach a rider to last month's Ag Appropriations bill to strip funding for implementation of the GIPSA Rule. Rep. Kristi Noem voted against the final Ag Appropriations bill. If I understood correctly, Rep. Noem also did not join 147 of her House colleagues in signing a letter highly-touted by the meat industry opposing the GIPSA Rule.
I was hoping to thank Congresswoman Noem in person for her apparent position, or at least non-opposition, to the GIPSA rule-making process. Alas, just as WORC staffer Anna Lucas was getting ready to take me across the street to the Congressional office buildings, Noem's office called and said their aides wouldn't be able to meet with us. Nertz! But these things happen, especially when an entire Congress is playing brinkmanship with the global economy.
We did get some quality time in Senator Tim Johnson's office. Legislative assistant for energy issues Janelle DiLuccia made time to take notes on DRA's positions on wind energy (we like it and we want to see more of it, especially on tribal lands, which could benefit from getting WAPA to supplement its hydro power with renewable energy bought from tribal wind farms instead of coal plants) and the Keystone XL pipeline (we don't like it, and we want to see more review of its emergency response plans, its environmental impact, and its economic necessity to the national interest to justify taking land from South Dakotans through eminent domain). We also got to talk GIPSA with LA for ag issues Josh Tonsager, a Huron HS debate alumnus.
After the conversation with Senator Johnson's people, Anna led me through the Senate mouse maze to Senator Thune's office. I'm very grateful for Anna's help: without her kind and confident direction, I'd have been stopping and gawking at everything and everyone ("Hey, there's Senator Scott Brown's office! Hey, there's Senator Chuck Grassley, looking distinctly cross!").
Senator Thune's people were also on a tight schedule, but they at least had time to take folder with a summary of the DRA points we shared with Senator Johnson's office. I also got to chat briefly with Thune's gals at the front desk, Dakota from Pierre (curious: how many other states make such good names? I mean, would you ever name a girl Oklahoma? Or Oregon?) and Stephanie from Milbank (another South Dakota debate alum! See: join debate, rule the world!).
And that was just Thursday afternoon. Next up, I'll write up the highlights of what I heard at the White House Community Leaders Briefing... as soon as I catch up with some other homework!