Opportunity Awaits in Reopening the Feed Rule

By Tom Cook, President, National Renderers Association

Spring is coming, we think. For the first year in many, March roared in like a lion. Actually, the Washington, DC, area has been spared much of the harsh winter weather others have had this year. In fact, we haven’t had a rough winter for several years. Of course, now that I’ve said this, we’ll probably get blasted.

However, Washington has had its own storm the last month or so. President Barack Obama was inaugurated at a very well-organized and impressive ceremony. The new people have come to town to govern. That is if they have paid their taxes. We are anxious to meet and get acquainted with the new political appointees once they get nominated and confirmed. The process has been slow. As of this writing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a secretary of agriculture, but not another single political appointee at USDA has been confirmed. We do not have a secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) or a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner. At this point, these are very important positions to renderers.

The administration is coming out every day with new initiatives at a dizzying pace. Every new administration believes they must make their mark within the first 100 days. It will take a lot more than 100 days to sort out all of the new proposals including a huge budget that was sent to Congress. Every president has a tendency to overreach with their budgets. In recent years, President George W. Bush’s budget was virtually declared dead on arrival by the Democratic run Congress.

This Congress is not going to declare the Obama budget dead on arrival, but it will face stiff challenges from Republicans and Democrats alike. Members of Congress like their earmarks and are not about to give them up without a fight. They will have to go home to explain to their constituencies why they are spending so much.

One unique thing did happen. The White House chief of staff issued on inauguration day a memorandum to all agencies freezing all pending regulations. Every new administration does this. Final rules were not included; however, there was a provision that if a rule had been published as final but not yet implemented the agencies could consider a 60-day delay of implementation. If they did, they would have to reopen the rule to comments for 30 days. The FDA enhanced feed rule falls into this category.

The National Renderers Association (NRA) immediately wrote to the FDA acting commissioner requesting a delay in the implementation of the rule. We were also able to organize a letter signed by a coalition of 12 national agriculture organizations making the same request. Several of these groups have recently been bombarded by their members demanding to know why renderers were notifying them that they would either not be able to continue to provide services, or it they did, the charges would be increased. (On April 6, 2009, FDA announced they would delay the implementation date of the feed rule. Read more here.)

I am not an “I told you so” kind of person, but NRA has been trying to make these same organizations aware of the consequences of the new feed rule for the past three years. They are now outraged. Some of them claim they did not see this coming. Fortunately, I do not think they are taking their anger out on renderers.

With this possible opportunity to delay the implementation and reopen the comment period of the rule, these organizations will get a chance to let FDA know how the new rule is impacting them and their members. NRA has maintained that the FDA has grossly understated the costs of this rule. With some help from the other 12 organizations, we will be able to reinforce our position. In government, it is a slim chance to undo a rule that has become final, but we have this unusual window of opportunity to try and do just that.

Much has happened, or not happened, since this rule was originally proposed by FDA in October 2005. What hasn’t happened since then is the detection of a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the United States. The reduction in risk that would occur with this rule is so insignificant it needs to be restated and put in line with the potential costs once again. Reopening the comment period for 30 days will allow FDA to review any new information that could conceivably cause them to reconsider the rule.

We are waiting for an answer to our request. One problem is the lack of an FDA commissioner and HHS secretary and the people in acting positions are reluctant to make decisions. Hopefully, we will have an answer soon.

College Bound
NRA and the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF) are going to college. During the week of April 20, 2009, the NRA and FPRF will be conducting their annual spring meetings at Clemson University, Clemson, SC. With the support of FPRF, the Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) was established at Clemson. This meeting will be an opportunity for ACREC to showcase the work it has done in finding new uses for rendered products.

Renderers will meet and exchange views with ACREC researchers and Clemson students. We are eagerly looking forward to this meeting and encourage everyone in the industry to join us for this opportunity.

From the Association – April 2009 RENDER | back