Renderers Tell Their Story on Capitol Hill

By Nancy Foster, President, National Renderers Association

In June, renderers from across the United States (US) met in Washington, DC, to take their message of recycling and its important role in agriculture to Capitol Hill. With decisions being made that affect the future of rendering, National Renderers Association (NRA) members educated legislators about rendering’s contribution to the food chain, biodiesel, and thousands of consumer and industrial products.

NRA’s Annual Washington Fly-in is held each June when Congress is usually in the midst of considering major legislation. Important issues on this year’s agenda for Capitol Hill were tax reform and renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The rendering industry has a major stake in both issues.

During the two-day fly-in, renderers held 180 meetings with legislators about priority issues for the industry. Each year, NRA’s Legislative Action Committee identifies the most important issues to be addressed during the fly-in, selecting topics with the greatest potential to directly impact the economic sustainability of rendering.

“Every year, as members of Congress and their staff change, it becomes more and more evident that we need to keep our story in front of them,” said Dave Kaluzny II of Kaluzny Bros. Inc. and chairman of the Legislative Action Committee. “There seem to be even fewer senior staff members to go around and they’re the only ones who know us already.”

This year’s top NRA fly-in issues were:

Biodiesel – Preserve biodiesel tax credits that are threatened with possible elimination of individual industry incentives. These tax credits expired December 31, 2016. Until then, blenders received a $1-per-gallon tax credit for production of biodiesel and renewable diesel. NRA also supports the 50-cents-per-gallon credit for alternative fuel mixtures.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Export Funding – Maintain strong funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program since President Donald Trump’s administration proposed to eliminate monies for both. NRA receives about $1.7 million annually from these programs to support overseas market development for US rendered products.

NAFTA – Encourage export market growth for rendered products under a new NAFTA. In a new agreement, US renderers will seek market access for ruminant meat and bone meal (MBM) into Mexico to restore this lost market worth approximately $30 million in new sales. Adopting consistent standards for animal health certification following World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, standards among NAFTA countries would eliminate this trade barrier. The United States also needs access to mixed animal fat and used cooking oil from Canada.

Sustainability – Educate Congress that rendering is sustainable by “upcycling” organics and carbon into new ingredients for livestock feed, biofuels, and numerous products that benefit consumers and partner industries.

Food waste – Animal by-products are not “food waste” but are valuable inputs upcycled by renderers into ingredients for new products. NRA opposes diversion of raw animal materials to other disposal means (such as composting and anaerobic digestion) prompted by government incentives meant to reduce food waste. NRA’s handouts used by renderers in their Capitol Hill meetings included “10 Facts about Rendering” and infographics on sustainability and food waste. While readers of Render know the fine points of rendering, many in Congress do not know what rendering is and best understand it in short and quick facts. Some basic rendering factoids shared with legislators were:

- The US rendering industry accounts for $10 billion in economic activity across the country.

- High cooking temperatures used in rendering assure animal food and consumer safety to protect against bacteria, viruses, and other safety hazards. Meeting customer needs for quality and safety is a high priority.

- Rendering is sustainable as recycling of animal by-products sequesters at least five times as much greenhouse gas emissions as it emits and produces far fewer emissions than landfilling or composting. Rendered products help animal agriculture and other customers reduce their environmental footprint and become more sustainable. Without rendering, all US landfills would be full in four years, posing a serious public health threat.

- Rendering produces valuable fats and proteins that improve nutrition in foods that consumers and farmers use to feed their pets as well as livestock, poultry, and fish.

- Renderers collect the nation’s used cooking oil from restaurants then clean it and recycle it into ingredients for animal feed and biodiesel and renewable diesel for cars, trucks, airplanes, and other equipment.

- Unknown by most, people use rendered products every day in soaps, paints, varnishes, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, shaving cream, deodorant, crayons, leather (i.e., handbags, car seats, and furniture), lubricants, caulking compounds, candles, cleaners, perfumes, polishes, rubber products, plastics, fertilizers, and even explosives and fireworks.

This year, rendering sustainability was especially embraced by many members of Congress and their staff, perhaps due to increased consumer interest in sustainability for the products they buy. Rendering’s sustainability was a surprise to most newly-elected members.

“The younger staffers do love the renderer’s ‘green’ story even more than the senior staff who have been around a while and seen it all,” according to Kaluzny. “During these interesting and transitional times it is so important that they all know our story both nationwide and in their own districts and states.”

The fly-in began with an industry issues briefing with speakers about agriculture in the Trump administration, the outlook for the agricultural economy, export opportunities, and the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) approach to feed safety regulation, including pet food.

Brian Klippenstein, a senior staff aide to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, explained the new administration’s approach to common-sense regulations and the importance of new technology to help US agriculture feed people in the future. Perdue is a veterinarian and believes in sound science, he said.

Agriculture would have taken the brunt of downside risk if the United States had pulled out of NAFTA instead of agreeing to modernize the trade pact, said Klippenstein. US agriculture has benefitted greatly from the agreement and so had much to lose if the United States withdrew. Last year, rendered exports to Canada reached $112 million and sales to Mexico were $279 million.

USDA’s Chief Economist Rob Johansson gave renderers an overview of the current farm economy and prospects ahead. He reported real farm income is off 30 percent since 2013 and farm debt is back down to 1980s levels. Interest payments are still low but land values and cash rents are starting to decline. Record production of beef, pork, broilers, and milk, spurred in part by relatively low feed grain prices, will soften prices. Continued firming up is expected in the dairy sector this year and next while poultry production is still in recovery after the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) several years ago but is moving toward a return to pre-HPAI levels. Poultry producers understand the importance of biosecurity, said Johansson, and USDA now understands the need to get in the field immediately with abatement support.

Ambassador Darci Vetter, former chief agricultural trade negotiator in the President Barack Obama administration, urged that agriculture’s first priority in new NAFTA negotiations should be to “do no harm.” (NRA included this request in its regulatory comments and oral testimony to the Office of the US Trade Representative earlier this year.) Vetter recommended the new free trade agreement have a stronger commitment to transparency and science-based decisions that would support American agriculture. This would specifically benefit NRA members regarding ruminant MBM into Mexico. Vetter encouraged NRA to press the Trump administration to be clear in what it wants from a new NAFTA before entering into negotiations and to not leave important agriculture trade problems until the end where they could be easily dropped or traded away.

Dr. Dan McChesney, director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, told fly-in participants that an increasing number of consumers are reporting problems in pet food safety that can be traced back to wet pet food. Consumers’ view of safety can be related to what ingredients are called rather than scientific fact, he said. There is a trend in pet food toward using raw and only slightly processed ingredients and consumer groups are interested in developing a “human grade” definition for pet food ingredients. This new approach began in small pet food companies and is now being adopted by larger companies, especially for slightly processed ingredients.

All active members of NRA are encouraged to attend the annual fly-in meetings in Washington, DC. Join other renderers to “tell your story” to decision makers who could impact your future. Be sure to mark your calendar for next year’s NRA Washington Fly-In, June 11-13, 2018.

August 2017 RENDER | back