Sam Stone | Vice President of Government Relations | Kansas City, Mo.
Although he wasn’t raised on a dairy farm, Sam Stone has been an influential advocate for the dairy industry, lobbying on producers’ behalf in Washington, D.C., for more than 35 years.
When Stone entered the industry, however, it wasn’t with political intentions. After graduating in 1963 with an accounting degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, he spent two years in the Army and four years with various entities in Texas including building materials, oil and gas companies and a certified public accounting firm. In 1969, he joined Associated Milk Producers, Inc. (AMPI) in San Antonio as an accountant.
His accounting career eventually took a new path in 1974 after his supervisor asked him to serve on AMPI’s political action committee to handle government relations.
“At that time, I’d never paid too much attention to politics,” Stone says. “But new federal regulations regarding political activities had just been enacted, and my boss thought my background would be a nice fit for the committee. My interest just sparked from there; the more meetings I attended, the more my interest in politics heightened.”
So did his lobbying efforts as he began representing the interests of dairy farmers on Capitol Hill.
“When I first got started, I didn’t have any formal lobbying training, but there were a few congressmen who helped me along the way,” Stone says. “In particular, I learned a lot from one congressman out of Tennessee who served as chairman of the House dairy subcommittee. He was a former dairy producer and gave me a lot of things to think about.”
Since then, it has been Stone who has assisted new Congress members.
“I met Sam soon after arriving in Congress nearly two decades ago,” says Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “I’ve always appreciated his knowledge of dairy policy and his strong advocacy for America’s dairy farmers.”
Stone has served as vice president of government relations for Dairy Farmers of America and as treasurer of the Dairy Educational Political Action Committee (DEPAC) since AMPI merged with DFA in 1998.
According to Stone, DEPAC is DFA’s voice in Washington, D.C., and those who serve on the committee work hard to ensure members’ views are expressed. This past year, Stone says he was busy answering calls and returning emails from various candidates who were seeking support for their campaigns.
“As treasurer, I work closely with our producer-led committee to decide what candidates we should support,” Stone says. “We keep a very detailed voting record of each member of the House and Senate, because we want candidates who support agriculture and want to improve the industry for our members.”
During the recent election, 94 percent of the candidates supported by DEPAC were elected. According to Stone, these results are a continuation of DEPAC’s historical success rate of 95 percent.
Stone also points out that his accounting background is helpful in the lobbying world, since people are always throwing numbers at him.
Throughout the year, Stone splits his time between Washington, D.C., and Kansas City, Mo. During his visits on Capitol Hill, Stone meets with three to six legislators on average per day, but says many times his meetings filter into the evenings at various receptions and dinners.