The dairy compact
The battle will be more regional than political
by Chris Braithwaite
Question: How will Jim Jeffordsí departure from the Republican Party
coming battle over the Northeast Dairy Compact?
Answer: Nobody seems to know.
The difficulty, says Erik Smulson, the senatorís spokesman, is that
"this is a
regional issue, not a political issue."
Mr. Jeffordsí decision will have substantial impact on a long list of
that tend to divide Democrats and Republicans along party lines.
But the dairy compact has its conservative Republican advocates and
Democratic opponents. Support for the idea may depend less on what a
congressman believes in than where he comes from.
By creating a new Democratic majority in the Senate, Mr. Jeffordsí move
dairy-state Democrat in the chairmanís seat on the key subcommittee on
Good news for the compact?
Hardly. The new chairman is Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, a bitter foe of
Major political opposition to the compact comes from the upper Midwest.
When the compact almost died in late 1999, Vermontís entire congressional
delegation fought to save it. But the fight was clearly led by Mr. Jeffords, who
took full advantage of the fact that his party was in the majority.
This time around, Mr. Jeffords probably wonít play such an important role.
"Mr. Jeffords believes strongly in the compact," Mr. Smulson said Tuesday,
will do everything in his power to move it forward."
However, Mr. Smulson added, "the compact is bigger than one member of
"The last go-round focused on the Northeast Compact, and Jeffords got
Andrew Meyer said Tuesday. "But this time around House members from a
number of states are stepping forward. Itís not going to be about Jeffords this
Mr. Meyer should know. The Hardwick native played a key role in the
Senate fight, as the dairy specialist on Senator Jeffordsí staff.
But two months ago Mr. Meyer left the Senator to launch the Governorsí
for Interstate Compacts. Heís executive director of the council, which was
established by Vermont Governor Howard Dean and Arkansas Governor Mike
Huckabee to lobby in Washington on behalf of the 25 states which have passed
legislation to permit creation of regional dairy compacts.
This year, says Mr. Meyer, leadership is coming from House members who
seen the success of the Northeast Dairy Compact, and want to bring its benefits to
their own states.
A pro-compact bill has more than 160 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives,
Mr. Meyer said. It would reauthorize the Northeast Dairy Compact, add five
mid-Atlantic states to its six member states, and form a new 14-state southern
Mr. Meyer said Tuesday there is also interest in forming a northwest
would include California, Oregon and Washington, and an inter-mountain regional
compact that would cover Utah, Nevada and Colorado.
Without new authorization, the Northeast Dairy Compact will die at the
In the Senate, Mr. Meyer said, there will be an emphasis on convincing
Democrats to support the compact. Vermontís senior senator, Democrat Pat
Leahy, will be able to play a bigger role in that task, Mr. Meyer said.
"What we found we really need to do is educate members about how the
works," Mr. Meyer said.
The scheme was largely the creation of state Representative Bobby Starr
who was the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in Vermont. Since
July 1997 it has maintained a floor under the farm price of milk thatís sold for