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A look at IFPA as lobbyist

Side view of the front of the US capitol building.

Mollie Van Lieu of the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) BB #:378962 has coauthored an op-ed piece for U.S. News & World Report on proposed cuts to the federal supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children (WIC).

Headshot of Richard Smoley

“If the House Fiscal Year 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill goes into effect, cash value benefits would be reduced by a staggering 56% for children and 70% for women,” says the article.

The fresh fruit and vegetable industry contends that these cuts would be bad not only for American public health but for the industry itself.

Accordingly, the IFPA has strongly voiced its opposition to these cuts (as with this op-ed article).

I wonder if this is going to be enough.

It occurred to me to look into IFPA’s lobbying efforts. I see a report on IFPA lobbying from ProPublica.

It says that IFPA spending on lobbying efforts from March 1, 2022, to the present has been about $380,000.

If you want to see more detailed quarterly reports, you can also find them at that link. For example, the breakdown for the third quarter of 2023 can be found at here.

Issues lobbied: “Educate members and Administration officials about the priorities of the fresh produce and floral industry, including labor, organics, supply chain, research, crop protection, and the impacts of climate change on agricultural production. Monitor developments regarding the reauthorization of the Farm Bill and educate policy makers on the priorities of the fresh produce and floral industries. Engage with the Department of Agriculture on the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program.”

From this information alone, it is difficult to see how much the organization lobbied on specific issues (such as WIC). And I am not enough of an investigative reporter to dig into the matter.

But I wonder how well targeted these lobbying efforts may be. Because merely educating Congressmen and administration officials on the benefits of fresh produce, however worthy in itself, may not be enough.

We might ask how much lobbying IFPA is doing on the WIC issue—and how specific it is.

It is one thing to publish op-ed pieces in national periodicals, and it is quite another to buttonhole Representatives in a Capitol corridor and ask what they are going to do about this matter.

Political capital is like money: you have a certain amount of it, and you spend a certain amount each time you pull in a favor. The broader outlook of IFPA must force it to consider this question carefully, especially since lobbying funds from the produce industry are not exactly huge.

I mean neither to criticize nor praise IFPA for its lobbying efforts.

But it may take more targeted action, especially at a time when a considerable portion of Congress appears to regard government spending as the handiwork of Satan himself.

The produce industry is full of powerful and well-connected people, a number of whom, I have no doubt, have personal connections to some of the Congressional delegation who might be least sympathetic to restoring WIC funds.

It may be time for these well-connected people in the industry to make a phone call or two on behalf of WIC.

But I suppose they will have to look into their political capital accounts and see whether and how much of it they want to spend.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.