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Watermelon, Hog Dog Lobbies Raise Profile on July Fourth Weekend

Bob Morrissey, executive director of the National Watermelon Association, won’t be kicking back poolside this July Fourth. It’s a working holiday weekend for him.

“I’m on the road, but it’s no vacation,” he said. This weekend, Morrissey will be in Atlanta for a two-day event with the group’s Georgia affiliate, giving away slices of watermelon at Atlanta Braves baseball games.

The watermelon lobby isn’t the only Fourth of July staple that will raise its profile. The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council will be on Capitol Hill later this month, while the National Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association is encouraging Hill denizens to fire up their grills over the holiday. Beer distributors also are putting in overtime this weekend.

Morrissey, who successfully worked with Congress to get July recognized as national watermelon month, said that when it comes to the NWA’s legislative agenda, the top priority is food safety legislation.

“We are all anxiously waiting for them to bring it up in the Senate,” Morrissey said. The House passed a food safety measure last year.

The hot dog and sausage council, run by the American Meat Institute, says that July is also national hot dog month. Like the watermelon group, the hot dog lobby is keeping a close eye on food safety legislation.

“Keeping food safe is the No. 1 priority of our member companies and our organization,” said Thomas Super, director of media outreach for the hot dog council and the meat institute. “We’re also actively involved in immigration.”

The hot dog council on July 21 will host Members, staff, lobbyists and professional baseball players at its annual hot dog lunch in the Rayburn House Office building courtyard.

The National Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association promotes cooking outside, but it also has more burning issues on the Hill. The group is urging Congress to renew a tax credit for the purchase of clean wood-burning appliances. “We’d love to have that extended, and we’re certainly working toward that,” said the association’s communications director, Leslie Wheeler.

Don’t forget the beer. The National Beer Wholesalers Association’s Rebecca Spicer says the holiday marks the busiest time of year for the industry.

“This week, the 95,000 men and women in the beer distribution industry are working long hours and getting beer trucks loaded long before the sun comes up to get fresh beer to licensed retailers in every Congressional district,” Spicer wrote in an e-mail.

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