(Originally published in Bread blog, July 6, 2007)
What's that you hear? A Lobby Day Buzz? But it's been almost a month since Lobby Day. And the buzz doesn't appear to be coming from Capitol Hill.
What's that? Did I hear you right? The buzz is coming from the First Plaza Galleria office building in downtown Albuquerque? And on the day after Independence Day?
Yes folks. We managed to get a visit with Rep. Heather Wilson herself on July 5. We considered this a coup because our appointment in Washington was with an unresponsive aide. (And even though we had more responsive and engaging aides in our four other Lobby Day visits to the offices of New Mexico representatives and senators, none of those elected officials were present at our Washington meetings last month).
We felt our audience with our congresswoman went extremely well. There was a more relaxed feel about it. There's something about meeting outside the Beltway in our home turf (and dare I say the congresswoman's home turf). In fact, I wouldn't call it a meeting. It was more like a conversation. Rep. Wilson was very aware of Bread for the World's concerns regarding the Farm Bill. After all, she had received almost 300 letters from about a dozen offerings of letters in Albuquerque!
Another plus about having the meeting here in Albuquerque was that were able to invite a couple of friends who represent coalition partners (the Community Food Security Coalition and the New Mexico Association of Food Banks) to support our Bread for the World positions and add their two cents to the discussion.
Rep. Wilson listened closely to our requests to boost the Food Stamp program, promote rural development, support producers of specialty crops, strengthen nutrition programs and place a limit on subsidies for the five "big" commodities. In the end, she made no specific promises, although she nodded her head in agreement several times during our meeting. Of this we can be sure: that our requests will be prominent on her radar screen when farm-bill legislation reaches the floor of the House.
Now that we've had a taste of this outside-the-beltway "Lobby buzz," we are thinking that perhaps we should occasionally schedule other meetings on the home turf during future congressional breaks. (And not only with Rep. Wilson, but with Rep. Tom Udall, Rep. Steve Pearce, and Sen. Pete Domenici and Sen. Jeff Bingaman).