Headline Grabbers and Pocketbook Issues

By Tom Cook, President, National Renderers Association

Usually when Congress returns from its annual August recess it is like the beginning of the year. Members come back somewhat revitalized after some time off and holding district meetings with constituents. It didn’t seem that way this year. Everything picked up where it left off before Congress adjourned for its summer recess. I often get asked how it is in Washington. My stock answer recently has been, “It is pretty much what you see on television and read in the newspaper.” With the 24 hours a day/seven days a week news cycle, just about everything is in the news, both the newsworthy and the mundane.

Congress is engrossed with the so-called super committee that has until early November to come up with $1.5 trillion in spending cuts. If this Joint Special Committee on Deficit Reduction is unable to come up with budget cuts that are then approved by Congress, there will be automatic significant reductions in defense spending and Medicare. However, as attracted as we are to these headlines, we must not be complacent with other activities going on that could affect business.

The regulatory juggernaut continues. Members of Congress have attempted to curtail the Environmental Protection Agency on a number of its proposed regulations with little or no luck. The National Labor Relations Board is still moving forward on trying to prevent Boeing from building a production plant in South Carolina and creating 1,000 new jobs. If this is possible in this case, who else could be affected in the future?

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack recently confirmed that USDA is moving ahead with the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule to make major changes to the Packers and Stockyards Act. Over 60,000 comments were received from opponents and proponents alike. Major livestock, poultry, and packer organizations have strongly opposed the rule on the grounds that it will severely impact the use of marketing agreements between producers, and packers will be significantly limited or disappear altogether because of the uncertainty over frivolous lawsuits. If the USDA final rule is at all like the proposed rule, it will be a lawyer’s bonanza with a final resolution likely going all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently tasked with the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which has granted the FDA sweeping new authority to regulate and oversee the growing production of food. Surprisingly, this legislation had broad support from consumers and industry alike. However, what Congress legislates is not always what the agencies interpret when they write the rules to go with legislation. The National Renderers Association (NRA) is monitoring the rulemaking process and working with FDA officials on anything that might deal with the rendering industry.

The future of the various alternative fuels programs is very uncertain at this moment. For the first time, the ethanol programs are being seriously challenged in Congress. The various government credits and incentives for ethanol and biodiesel are under scrutiny and could be eliminated or significantly changed.

In my column in the August issue of Render, I stated that the three U.S. free trade agreements with Columbia, Korea, and Panama were moving forward; however, I doubted they would be passed this year. Since then, a concerted effort has been made by both President Barack Obama’s administration and Congress to get them done this year. It might just be possible.

At the NRA annual convention, there are several policy committees that address the many issues facing the rendering industry. They may not all be headline grabbers, but most of them are pocketbook issues for most renderers. The NRA leadership and staff work hard at representing the best interests of its members every day. Sometimes a simple phone call to inform and educate someone can resolve a matter. There are usually enough eyes and ears in play that often an issue is settled before it becomes one.

Congratulations to the NRA members in Vernon, CA. With a lot of hard work, they, along with other industries in that city, were able to beat back an attempt by members of the California legislature to disincorporate the city of Vernon. It looks like common sense finally prevailed.

Finished product prices are good and the 2011 NRA convention is in a great location this month so we are expecting a large turnout of renderers from several countries and industry supporters to attend. It is the one time of the year when renderers meet to address industry and association business and spend time with colleagues and friends.

I look forward to seeing everyone in Tucson, AZ.

October 2011 RENDER | back