Kildee: Ag lobbyists should reach out beyond Ag committee
SAN DIEGO — House Chief Deputy Whip Dan Kildee, D-Mich., said here this week that farm lobbyists should reach out to members who do not sit on the House Agriculture Committee if they want to win legislative battles in the House. He spoke at the Crop Insurance Industry Convention.
Kildee, who represents Flint, Mich., and its surrounding area, noted that when he was elected, “I came from an urban experience and had to learn about agriculture.”
Kildee noted that he doesn’t serve on the House Agriculture Committee but wants to support agriculture. In the last Congress, he and Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., formed the Bipartisan Agriculture and Rural America Task Force to work with the House Agriculture Committee.
According to Hudson’s website, the task force was focused on “the right balance between ensuring fiscal responsibility, providing certainty to our farmers and maintaining the strength of our agribusinesses.”
When he was elected to the House, Kildee said he found that Flint was “surrounded by open space” that is home to 1,000 farm families active in sugar beets.
Kildee noted that in 2014 a vote on a measure to cut back on the sugar program almost prevailed, but that in 2018 a similar measure was defeated by 140 votes.
Kildee attributed the sugar growers’ victory to the fact that “we educated people, we explained what could have happened” if the sugar program had been gutted.
Even though the farm bill has passed, farmers and their lobbyists cannot rest on their laurels because the attacks will continue while the issue of the China trade needs to be addressed, he added.
If a farmer has to get out of the business, “you can’t just go back in when it gets better,” Kildee said.
Even though he is chief deputy whip for the Democrats, Kildee said, he hopes that the bipartisan agreements that led to passage of the farm bill can lead to an agreement on infrastructure.
“My job is to keep the party united, but we can be united across party lines, too,” he said.
He and Hudson, Kildee noted, don’t agree on much but they do agree on agriculture policy.
“When you disagree, you fight like mad. When you agree, you don’t let disagreements get in the way of agreement on what you agree on. It sets a really good example for the other areas,” he said.
“It’s really important that you speak up,” Kildee told the crop insurers. “You are talking about more than agriculture; you are talking about how to get things done.”