Working for the Good of the Industry

By Tom Cook, President, National Renderers Association

“Every man owes a part of his time and money to the industry or business in which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

This quote might have been used in an earlier column many years ago. If so, repetition doesn’t hurt. This sentiment by the former U.S. president is as true today as it was 92 years ago, and I very much agree with it. However, I also believe it is legitimate to put the organization to the test to truly determine that it is striving to improve conditions within its sphere.

The National Renderers Association (NRA) passes the test. For the past 76 years, the NRA has represented and stood up for the industry, sometimes against great odds. Today, it is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to the interests of the rendering industry.

The challenges facing the industry today are numerous. Some continue to be the same while new ones keep surfacing. Our platter is always full.

Several years ago, NRA leadership determined the organization should focus on issues where it could better serve the members collectively than renderers could do themselves as individuals. Government affairs, scientific services, public relations, and trade are the ones that rise to the top of the issues we find ourselves actively and regularly engaged. Each of these areas is important to the well-being and prosperity of the rendering industry.

Government affairs might be the most obvious because of its scope. Federal, state, legislative, regulatory, and judicial are all areas we must vigilantly monitor and exert our influence.

Much of the past 25 years has been spent dealing with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), touching each of the areas just mentioned. While everything did not turn out as we would have liked, without the NRA at the table during the regulatory process, renderers would be facing even more restrictive regulations. NRA continues to seek the reopening of foreign markets lost because of BSE, and while our progress is slow, it is improving.

In recent years, the NRA has been active and instrumental in making sure rendered products were included in various bioenergy related programs such as the biodiesel and alternative fuels mixture tax credits. These programs have contributed to the increased demand for rendered fats and oils. Without the NRA going to both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Congress several years ago, rendered products would have been overlooked and not included in the various alternative energy programs, putting renderers at a significant competitive disadvantage.

The annual NRA Washington fly-in has been a tremendous investment for the industry. Every June for the past eight years a dedicated number of NRA members have gone to Washington, DC, to tell the industry’s positive story and spread the word on the many contributions the rendering industry provides to society. Literally hundreds of congressional offices have been visited. Members of Congress and their staffs have been enlightened and educated about the industry. Valuable contacts have been made between the congressional offices and their constituents, which are the renderers in their states and districts.

The NRA leadership and staff are continually representing the industry to various government agencies both domestically and internationally on trade issues. We regularly host foreign delegations that come to the United States to learn more about this industry. These activities have directly contributed to the opening and expanding of exports to new markets.

The rendering industry has enjoyed an enviable reputation for product safety. This is in part due to the unusually high industry compliance to the feed rule and the industry code of practice program. The NRA/Animal Protein Producers Industry Code of Practice certification program is in its fourth year with 98 plants certified. This program is not only beneficial to the certified facilities, but also benefits the industry as another sign of our commitment to product safety.

In recent years we have found ourselves dealing with issues like climate change, sustainability, cap and trade, greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon footprints, just to name a few. The rendering industry is definitely an interested party when the government – i.e., Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies – decides to further legislate and regulate on these matters. The current tone in Washington, DC, is for increased oversight and regulation. EPA’s recent action on greenhouse gas emissions has caused a significant increase in judicial involvement in this rulemaking process, creating a bonanza for the lawyers. NRA has attended several meetings with other affected groups to explore options.

It is hard for individual renderers to come to town to represent themselves. This is what the NRA does. It represents the industry on behalf of its members, speaking with one unified and strong voice, which is much more effective. The industry needs to be at the table day-in and day-out, not “on” it.

NRA is always available when members call with specific concerns or requests. Our effectiveness is only as good as the organization we represent. Members who support the organization through their active participation and financial assistance are what make the NRA the respected organization it is. But just as important, all renderers benefit from the programs and activities of the NRA, so if you are not currently a member, perhaps Roosevelt’s words need to be revisited.

From the Association – February 2010 RENDER | back