The Chronicle The Weekly Journal of Orleans County. 28(21):1. May 30, 2001 Barton, VT.

The dairy compact

The battle will be more regional than political

by Chris Braithwaite

Question: How will Jim Jeffordsí departure from the Republican Party affect the
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 political issues
that tend to divide Democrats and Republicans along party lines.

But the dairy compact has its conservative Republican advocates and its liberal
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 put a
dairy-state Democrat in the chairmanís seat on the key subcommittee on
agricultural appropriations.

Good news for the compact?

Hardly. The new chairman is Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, a bitter foe of the compact.
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, "and
will do everything in his power to move it forward."

However, Mr. Smulson added, "the compact is bigger than one member of
Congress."

"The last go-round focused on the Northeast Compact, and Jeffords got it done,"
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
year."

Mr. Meyer should know. The Hardwick native played a key role in the 1999
Senate fight, as the dairy specialist on Senator Jeffordsí staff.

                             Governor's Council

But two months ago Mr. Meyer left the Senator to launch the Governorsí Council
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 have
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
dairy compact.

Mr. Meyer said Tuesday there is also interest in forming a northwest compact that
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 end of
September.

In the Senate, Mr. Meyer said, there will be an emphasis on convincing dubious
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 compact
works," Mr. Meyer said.

The scheme was largely the creation of state Representative Bobby Starr of Troy,
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
fresh consumption.