Washington Wreaked by Weather, This Time

By Tom Cook, President, National Renderers Association

It’s hot! In early July, the Washington, DC, area experienced its hottest period in recent history. In fact, records were set for the most consecutive days over 95 degrees and most consecutive days over 100 degrees. Add this to an area suffering without electricity ranging anywhere from 24 hours to one week. I don’t expect much sympathy because most of the United States (US), except perhaps the West Coast, was suffering from record high temperatures as well.

However, a large section of the country did experience something extraordinary called a “derecho,” which is Spanish for straight. It was an unusual weather phenomenon of a straight wind force that travelled the 600 miles from Indiana to Maryland in just 10 hours; that’s an unbelievable speed of 60 miles per hour. The storm packed hurricane force winds accompanied by torrential rain. It covered a broad area with the greater Washington, DC, vicinity taking the brunt.

This derecho hit my Virginia neighborhood about 11:00 pm on a Friday with very little warning. Unlike hurricanes, thunderstorms, or tornadoes, no one saw it coming. I first learned about it on the 10:00 pm news, and by the time I could tell my family and our houseguests what to expect, the electricity was already out.

There are a lot of large old trees in the older residential areas hit by the storm. Many were torn out at the roots and fell on houses and cars, causing some fatalities. The storm also created havoc with the entire electrical system, causing over 1.2 million people to lose electricity. We survived and were lucky as our electricity was back on within 24 hours. It was brutal for many who waited up to a week to get power restored, especially with temperatures over 100 degrees every day. Even the public and community swimming pools had to be closed if there was no electricity. Most conversations started with “Do you have power?” If you did and they didn’t you were hesitant to answer or felt guilty in doing so.

The experience reminded us that we often take much for granted and forget to be grateful for what we have. How fortunate we are with our many conveniences. We were grateful to be among the lucky ones who had electricity restored before having to throw away spoiled food from freezers and refrigerators.

The derecho added some commotion to what has been a pretty quiet summer in Washington as it relates to the business of Congress. However, the National Renderers Association (NRA) had a successful Washington fly-in in mid-June when over 30 members visited at least 100 congressional offices. The group was also briefed by the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and senior staff from the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

The farm bill has passed the Senate and is now being debated in the House of Representatives. NRA’s efforts to reauthorize the export promotion programs – the Foreign Market Develop-ment and Market Access Program – have been successful so far. There is broad support for these programs as shown in the votes taken. Yet, with the political election campaigns in full swing, don’t expect much more legislative business to get done this year.

NRA has spent a lot of time and effort, along with the hard work of many of its members, in trying to reopen the export market to Indonesia for US meat and bone meal. It should not have closed in the first place, but because of the politics in that country and the publicized case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy in April, a flurry of activity shut the market down. Recently, there have been signs that give the industry real hope the market will reopen soon.

NRA also continues its efforts to open the Chinese market for US tallow following the success of the Canadian government in reaching an agreement with China. NRA’s Canadian members are anxious to see that trade begin, but it is taking more time than expected due to some internal hurdles that must be met by importing companies.

The 79th Annual NRA Convention is October 23-26, 2012, in Dana Point, CA. There is already a lot of interest based on early registration so don’t delay if you plan on attending. Learn more at http://nationalrenderers.org.

August 2012 RENDER | back