Hot Summertime Issues in Washington

By Tom Cook, President, National Renderers Association


The two hottest topics in Washington, DC, this summer are health care and climate change. President Barack Obama has made them his number one and two agenda items.

The House of Representatives passed its version of a climate change bill, also referred to as cap and trade, earlier this summer on a very close vote. While Democrats in the Senate were aiming for passage of their version of a climate change bill before the summer recess, it is unlikely to happen.

Health care is another major undertaking and Obama has been feverishly trying to get a reform bill passed before the summer recess as well, but that isn’t going to happen either.

Obama’s strategy, not dissimilar to previous administrations, is to move fast – get it done while momentum is on your side. The longer everyone, particularly the opposition, has to read the fine print and study the legislation, the more skeptical they become. The health care legislation is a good example. The general public seems to support some type of health care reform, but they are just becoming aware of some of the details of the proposed legislation. The more time it takes to get health care reform through Congress, the more difficult it will be to even accomplish.

Many of the official Washington prognosticators believe the success of Obama’s term of office is riding on these two major endeavors. If he falls short of his goal here, he will have rough sledding on future initiatives. No doubt about it, the stakes are high.

These two issues are important to renderers as well, from a business standpoint and to them as individual citizens.

The National Renderers Association (NRA) has a particular interest in the climate change legislation. As Congress continues to consider the implementation of a national cap and trade scheme, the rendering industry should be considered a viable source of emissions offsets. Allowing the rendering industry to participate would create financial incentives for farmers and ranchers to properly dispose of dead animals while avoiding additional greenhouse gases, reducing concerns over the spread of disease, and freeing up valuable landfill space. Also, discriminating against products already recycled through rendering as “not new” technology, but recognizing protocols for placing fallen animals in anaerobic digesters or in landfills to trap and burn off the methane produced as “new” technology, would put rendering at a competitive disadvantage and drive these organic materials to a much less productive and environmentally disadvantageous end. The results would be awarding offset for shifting carbon from recycling to disposal with no net reduction (and a probable increase) in greenhouse gas emissions.

The NRA has always been as aggressive as possible to ensure renderers have a place at the table as legislation affecting the industry is being considered. I recently heard someone say, “I’d rather be at the table and not on the table.” That holds true as NRA works hard to represent the rendering industry, whether it is legislation, regulations, or other policy issues in Washington.

Another pending proposed legislation of concern to renderers is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Organized labor’s top priority this Congress is the enactment of EFCA, which would dramatically change U.S. labor law.

Currently, employees are entitled to a private ballot election when deciding whether they want union representation in their workplace. Elections are overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has numerous procedures in place to ensure fair, fraud-free elections. Because of the NLRB safeguards, employees can cast their vote confidentially, without peer pressure or coercion from unions or employers.

If Congress passes the EFCA, employees effectively lose their right to private ballot elections. The bill would establish a so-called “card check” or “majority sign-up” union organizing system in which a majority of employees simply sign a card in favor of union representation.

The NRA, along with many other business and agricultural organizations, oppose the implementation of EFCA or “card check” because it strips workers of their right to a secret ballot and it increases intimidation and pressure by union organizers, making it an inaccurate mechanism for determining employee support for unionization.

As of press time, this legislation is stalled in the Senate because its supporters can’t reach the filibuster proof number of 60. A group of Democrats are trying to develop language to get their votes, but NRA is wary of any compromise that will weaken existing law.

Convention Plans Underway
The NRA is making plans to have another outstanding convention October 20-23, 2009, in San Francisco, CA. This will be our 76th annual event following quite the celebration last year on our 75th, which set the bar pretty high to do as good or better job this year. But we are determined to have an even better convention this year.

All the information one needs about the convention, including registration and reservations, can be found online at http://nationalrenderers.org. We look forward to seeing many of you in San Francisco.

Comments on this and any other article in Render are welcome and may be sent to editors@rendermagazine.com.


From the Association – August 2009 RENDER | back