It’s not who you know in Washington D.C., that counts, says Wisner, La., crop consultant Ray Young. “It’s who knows you.”

And what better way to make that happen than to throw down a buffet of boiled crawfish, crawfish etouffee and fried alligator for congressional leaders, their staff, lobbyists and other Washington insiders. It’s put on by the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants. This year’s March 15 Crawfish Boil on the Hill marked the event’s 14th year.

Earlier in the day, NAICC members fanned out on Capitol Hill, visiting House and Senate agriculture committee members and their staff, discussing potential legislation and how it may impact farming interests.

Everyone they visited received an invitation to stop by the Longworth Building that night, to put politics on the back burner for a while and move the crawfish to the front. “It’s all about building relationships, noted Young, who has attended all 14 of the annual crawfish boils.

NAICC president Dennis Hattermann, Valdosta, Ga., said the boil “is meant to be a relaxed event for our senators and representatives and their staff to meet in a casual atmosphere with good food. We meet with them during the afternoon and talk to them about issues important to the agricultural community.”

Hattermann noted that for many NAICC members, HR-872 was a primary focus of those afternoon visits. At the time of this writing, the bill had passed the House Agriculture Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but not the full House.

The legislation would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to clarify Congressional intent and eliminate the requirement of a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit for the use of FIFRA-registered pesticides.

According to Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, chairman of the Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, HR-872 “will prevent the single greatest expansion of the permitting process in the history of the Clean Water Act program. Unless Congress acts, hundreds of thousands of farmers, foresters, public health officials and others face either new regulatory costs or the threat of lawsuits and exorbitant fines.”

The deadline for obtaining an NPDES permit for those responsible for a point source discharge is April 9, 2011. If there is no permit in place, the responsible party is liable for a fine of $37,500 a day, if there is a violation.

This year’s Crawfish Boil on the Hill provided over 300 people with a unique taste of Southern culture, and perhaps helped to cultivate a few friendships.

To get to the meat of a matter, whether it a crawfish or a political issue, requires good technique and a little work. Perhaps H.B. Bert Pena, a lobbyist for several agricultural interests, summed up the day’s activities best when he said, “Politics is the art of the possible.”