The baking industry invaded Washington last month for Capitol Hill lobbying visits sponsored by the Executive Leadership Development Committee (ELDC) of the American Bakers Association (ABA).
The lobbying, part of ELDC's Public Policy Forum, was an opportunity to relay the industry's message to lawmakers on issues ranging from health care to food safety.
ELDC offers professional development to future baking industry leaders, including hands-on lobbying through meetings with lawmakers and regulators.
Kelly Knowles, ABA's director of political affairs, is staff liaison for ELDC.
More than 50 ABA members attended the Washington event, and ABA provided lots of pointers in prepping newbies for visits to lawmakers, including how to present (don't overstate your case and be realistic about expectations). Participants were schooled in the specifics of issues and given talking points (such as for food safety: “ABA opposes increasing FDA records access to anything more than what is required in the 2002 Bioterrorism Act.”).
Attendees were told to think of the meeting as a sales call, and to remember to “close the sale” by asking for support on particular issues.
Those not familiar with Capitol Hill etiquette were instructed on what to expect. For example, while it's important to be on time, don't be disappointed if lawmakers or their staffs are not. Moreover, if your meeting ends up taking place in a hallway instead of a conference room, don't take that as a bad sign about your clout. Rather, it's a statement on how little space is available.
There were tips about how to follow up afterward. Bakers were told to mail letters, but also to send electronic versions because mail to Washington is truly snail mail: It's irradiated for security reasons and subject to long delays.
ABA made sure to point out when a member lives or works in the legislators' district, an important factor to lawmakers.