Looking Ahead in 2017

By Nancy Foster, President, National Renderers Association

As I write this column, it is early January and snowing with near-zero temperatures outside. The National Renderers Association (NRA) wishes everyone a prosperous and healthy New Year. The coming year offers a lot to look forward to.

This year will bring interesting and perhaps unexpected rendering challenges to navigate as well as a new presidential administration and Congress. Opportunities will come up so the rendering industry must be sharp to turn them into advantages. Agriculture is cyclical so better times will eventually come with stronger prices and improved returns. The challenge is to weather the 2017 headwinds until economics improve.

Looking into 2017, NRA’s programs and staff will focus on improving opportunities for renderers and their business partners. The association’s rendering members represent over 95 percent of production in the United States (US) and Canada. In addition, NRA’s allied members provide important goods and services to the rendering industry. The future of each is linked to the other.

This year, NRA’s programs and projects will continue to carry out the association’s mission “to advocate for a sustainable food chain, public health, and the environment through the production and marketing of rendered products and services.” This mission was adopted recently as part of NRA’s 2020 Strategic Plan, which is driving the association’s work in 2017 through five key programs: industry information, scientific services, international market development, legislative advocacy, and communications and education. NRA operates by the maxim that all it does must add value to rendering by increasing business opportunities and preventing harm and loss of income for members that can come from many places, such as government regulation or legislation, media coverage, activist attacks, a new disease outbreak, or customer concerns.

Industry Information, Science, and Regulation
NRA’s Scientific Services continues to closely track implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This year will be the first full year the rendering industry must comply with the new and extensive regulations so continued training and guidance for members on how to abide with this major law is a high priority. NRA will closely monitor the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) inspection process and work with the agency to resolve problems that may arise. FDA said FSMA inspections are not intended to be punitive but instead focus on improvements where needed. NRA will compile experiences of its members so please advise the association of any difficulties with FSMA inspections so NRA can ensure government inspectors comply with the requirements of the new law and the agency’s own implementing regulations.

The Animal Protein Producers Industry (APPI) will offer its annual Rendering Code of Practice seminar in June to train preventive control qualified individuals (PCQIs) who are required under FSMA. With over six months of field experience in FSMA implementation, participants will learn about actual approaches used by inspectors since renderers will have the opportunity to share experiences. This will help NRA staff learn what adjustments may be needed. In addition, NRA agreed to FDA’s request for a number of FSMA inspectors to attend this APPI training to increase the chances that industry and regulators are working from a similar knowledge base about FSMA legal and regulatory requirements.

The Rendering Code of Practice will be updated to fully reflect FDA’s final FSMA regulations and presented at the APPI training in June. NRA is also working with the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) to ensure its updated Safe Food/Safe Feed program is aligned with the new code of practice.

NRA will continue to focus on sustainability this year. Education will be a main focus to allow member companies to use general information NRA has developed and tailor it for their own use. This profile will also help other industries and policymakers understand the important role the rendering industry has always played in making the food system more sustainable.

This year, NRA will again work with the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) as they continue revising nearly all feed ingredient definitions. AAFCO recently focused on fat definitions and will eventually evaluate protein definitions to meet standards of the FDA Amendments Act that was passed by Congress several years before FSMA was enacted. NRA vigilantly monitors AAFCO meetings because when rendered products are discussed, activists often demand that sick or dead animals be prohibited from rendering as they allegedly create unsafe animal feed. Since FDA officials and feed manufacturers attend these meetings, NRA is there to speak up about the food safety and public health importance of rendering. NRA uses this opportunity to regularly reassure AAFCO about the safety and effectiveness of the rendering process.

In 2017, NRA and the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation will continue to coordinate closely on challenges facing the rendering industry. Research can provide important scientific knowledge necessary to help the industry or to convince a regulator, customer, or skeptical reporter.

Growing Exports and Trade
Since almost 20 percent of US rendered products are exported, NRA’s international market development program plays an important role in the industry. Its goals are to increase foreign market access for rendered products and promote them to customers overseas. Even though the high-valued US dollar now challenges exports, foreign markets are built and kept over time based on quality, safety, reliability, and service.

In 2017, NRA will work to grow access in a number of foreign markets – such as China, Mexico, Thailand, and South America – while maintaining the current market for used cooking oil (UCO) in Europe that is at risk from legislative threats. NRA has overseas trade offices in Mexico City, Mexico, and Hong Kong, China, and a team of international export consultants around the world. The association’s international market development program is funded through membership dues as well as about $1.7 million in matching grants from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) each year.

The first exports of US tallow recently arrived in China and customers were pleased with the product. After lengthy effort, NRA successfully gained access last fall for US tallow into this 100,000 to 200,000 metric-ton-per-year market. NRA encourages more renderers to become registered to export tallow under China’s requirements.

A shutdown of non-ruminant protein exports to China was avoided at the end of 2016 due to audits of US plants coordinated by NRA and conducted by China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ). NRA coordinated with AFIA and the Pet Food Institute to arrange the AQSIQ trip. The audits had to be completed by a December 31 deadline to keep this important market open.

Gaining entry into Mexico for US ruminant meat and bone meal (MBM) is a high priority in 2017. NRA believes these products should be eligible for export there since Mexico recognizes standards of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The United States is classified as negligible risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy by the OIE and therefore should be able to export MBM to Mexico. NRA is currently encouraging approval of a new Mexican regulation to allow these exports to occur.

At NRA’s recommendation, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has asked Thailand for market access for MBM. New veterinary staff joined APHIS last year and in 2017 NRA will continue educating them about rendering, including providing plant tours.

APHIS’s small ruminant rule, which would allow Canadian exports of ruminant small animal products into the United States, is in the final stages of approval at USDA. NRA has called on the agency to finalize this regulation as soon as possible. However, it is on hold until approved by officials of President Donald Trump’s new administration.

NRA supports ensuring product integrity throughout the export shipping process. To protect renderers’ brands and overseas markets, the association worked with APHIS last year to establish a new audit process. For exports to Indonesia, third-party exporters first must pass an APHIS inspection and then renderers with whom they do business must sign and submit an approval form to APHIS each year. APHIS will only sign off on export certificates for rendered products after receiving these approvals.

Keeping current markets open is just as important as opening new ones. Ill-advised legislation introduced in the United Kingdom would greatly reduce demand for UCO imports from the United States. The rest of Europe could follow and adopt this legislation as well, which would establish an indirect land use change (ILUC) measurement for UCO based on the erroneous belief that the oil is used extensively in feed. ILUC supporters believe diversion of UCO from feed will increase use of soybean oil to replace it, resulting in increased soybean production and release of more carbon into the atmosphere. NRA believes no ILUC value should be applied to UCO since it is not primarily a major feed ingredient. The association is coordinating opposition to the ILUC proposal with European customers.

Legislative Advocacy
It is a team effort when it comes to NRA’s lobbying program in Washington, DC. The association’s job is to advocate on behalf of the rendering industry on priority issues affecting the industry’s ability to do business and its freedom to operate. One of NRA’s greatest political strengths is the rendering industry’s huge footprint across the country. Renderers operate in almost every state and in hundreds of congressional districts. This translates into grassroots ability to gain a listening ear of many members of Congress in the House of Representatives and Senate.

In 2017, NRA’s priority legislative issues are tax reform and biodiesel, overturning environmental regulations, food waste legislation that could potentially reduce raw material supplies, the new farm bill, and funding from USDA for NRA’s international marketing programs. Since “expect the unexpected” is a given in Washington, DC, politics, there undoubtedly will be additional issues that will offer opportunities and dangers for renderers. Much depends upon the actual priorities of the new Trump administration and Congress, which are still being revealed as this goes to press.

NRA’s political consultant, Steve Kopperud of SLK Strategies, is NRA’s lobbyist on Capitol Hill. This author often accompanies him to educate congressional staff and members of Congress on specifics of the rendering industry and the impacts of proposed legislation. Kopperud has extensive experience in animal agriculture and the feed industry in the Washington, DC, political world.

Each year, renderers come to NRA’s Washington Fly-in held in June. They meet with their members of Congress on important rendering issues, partake in an industry issues briefing with top government experts and customers, and attend a legislative breakfast featuring a congressional speaker. This year’s fly-in will be especially important. Speakers will talk about what a Trump administration and new GOP-controlled Congress mean for renderers, American agriculture, and the nation. The fly-in also offers outstanding networking opportunities with others in the rendering industry. Mark your calendars for this year’s fly-in, June 12-14, 2017.

Communications and Education
Increasing understanding of the rendering industry is a major priority of NRA’s 2020 Strategic Plan and is reflected in this year’s communications projects. To reach students and excite them about rendering, a “Rendering 101” teaching module was sent in January to university and community college meat science professors at schools across the country. The slide set can be used on its own to teach a session on rendering or be incorporated into a more general curriculum on livestock agriculture. With greater awareness of rendering and its good career prospects, the industry hopes to attract outstanding young talent and build appreciation for its role among future agriculture leaders.

NRA will also adapt this Rendering 101 introduction for use by its members to educate their local communities. It will include slides and a speech that members can tailor for their companies, employees, and local issues.

NRA is updating its popular North American Rendering handbook this year to include information on the rendering process, rendered ingredients, and safety as well as pet food, sustainability, biofuels, and other issues that have gained importance since the last guide was published. It will add new material to NRA members’ business toolbox and provide a valuable resource for foreign government officials and overseas buyers about the industry. The handbook will be translated for use by NRA foreign offices and export consultants.

To raise awareness about rendering’s positive environmental benefits among restaurant customers, NRA is developing an information kit renderers can use to promote their services to their UCO accounts. The goal is to build customer loyalty, encourage UCO and grease recycling, and provide “green” information restaurants can use to promote their own commitment to sustainability and the environment.

During 2017, NRA plans to maintain a strong web presence and provide publications to keep members up-to-date on information affecting their business.

This Year’s NRA Meetings
All NRA members and companies with an interest in joining are invited to NRA’s meetings this year that provide unparalleled networking and educational opportunities. Many say these rendering meetings are an essential part of doing business. Mark your calendars for NRA’s 2017 Spring Meeting, April 18-20 at The Four Seasons hotel in Chicago, Illinois. NRA’s 2017 Annual Convention will be held October 23-27 at The Ritz Carlton in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

With a new political agenda in Washington, DC, major changes are ahead. Some are known but many are not. NRA will be closely involved as Trump and his political appointees take control of government and chart their own agenda.

February 2017 RENDER | back