A Bit of This and That Keeps Life Interesting

By Tom Cook, President, National Renderers Association

What a winter we have had in Washington, DC. Even for this North Dakota farm boy, this winter has been one for the record books. Between three major storms, the Washington, DC, area has received somewhere between 50 and 60 inches of snow depending on where you were measuring. All records were broken.

The federal government shut down several times due to the weather. During and after the last storm in February, the government was closed for four days from Monday through Thursday. Employees returned to work on Friday, and then had the following Monday off for the President’s Day federal holiday.

The standard joke is that the country is usually better off if the government, especially Congress, is not working. I was surprised to hear some talk show hosts proposing a taxpayers refund for the days the government was shut down. Contrary to this, people I talked to thought we were getting a bargain the way it was.

Due to inaccessible roads, the National Renderers Association (NRA) offices were also closed for several days; however, thanks to computers and cell phones, the staff was able to work from home. So, except for taking time to shovel snow, we were effectively working as usual. But with the government shut down, the workload was much lighter for a few days.

Now that the weather has quieted down, things are heating up in the nation’s capital.

The administration and Congress are still focused on health care reform. Deadlines are being set, and broken, for votes in the House and Senate on this major legislation. It is such a polarizing issue, whatever the outcome, I am not sure that this Congress will settle down and do much other business the rest of the year.

However, as I say that, at the time of this writing, legislation is moving on the tax extenders, which includes credits for biodiesel and alternative fuels of interest to renderers. If passed, the tax credits will be retroactive from January 1, 2010, through December 31, 2010, and be a big relief to the biodiesel industry. The next step will be to seek extensions beyond the end of this year. The NRA belongs to a coalition of like-minded industries that is working to extend these incentives.

There are several members of Congress who have introduced legislation to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from moving forward on its controversial new rules that would slash greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. There are critics of these rules on both sides of the political aisle.

The EPA is under fierce fire from more than a dozen lawmakers trying to block the new regulations that would use the Clean Air Act to impose new emissions curbs on business. It is unlikely that the proposed legislation to curb the EPA will be successful. In the end, President Barack Obama would have to sign any such bill to become law and that is highly unlikely. However, it might get the attention of the EPA to slow down.

Cap and trade legislation appears to be dead. Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are supposedly drafting new legislation that would impose industry-specific regulations rather than the economy-wide cap preferred by the Obama administration.

Once again, there are members assaulting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Market Access Program (MAP). This is the program that assists certain agricultural industries, such as rendering, in gaining foreign market access for their products. Contrary to the critics, this program has a good track record.

The NRA has been a beneficiary since the beginning of the program in 1985, making it possible for the association to host numerous trade teams from other countries to the United States to see how rendered products are produced and to confer with U.S. government trade officials in order to open export markets. The NRA has participated in numerous trade promotion activities in foreign countries with the help of the MAP program, which is a cost-share program. For every dollar an industry receives from the USDA, it must match with industry funds.

The critics continue to use the same playbook they have used for over 20 years. In the early years, there were some abuses that have long been corrected. Since then, the critics, including some government agencies, have continued to bring up the same old talking points refusing to recognize that the program has had a clean record for many years.

The NRA will be working hard to preserve this program and seek continued funding for this and the USDA Foreign Market Development (FMD) program. The FMD program complements the MAP in providing assistance in foreign marketing efforts.

The NRA and Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF) will be holding their annual spring business meetings April 27-29, 2010, in Cincinnati, OH. There will be a full slate of issues to address. The International Market Development Committee will be having its annual strategic planning meeting, while FPRF will be reviewing several research proposals and setting its priorities for the coming year. NRA will also be setting its priorities for the Washington Fly-in in June 2010.

Among the many topics to be addressed will be grease theft. This has been one of the most frustrating issues facing renderers nationwide. With the increasing value of this product so have thefts increased. Many members have requested that NRA address this issue to see if there is a collective effort that can be undertaken to correct the problem.

It will be an interesting spring meeting.

From the Association – April 2010 RENDER | back