The Power of Coalitions

By Nancy Foster, President, National Renderers Association


One of the first meetings I attended after joining the National Renderers Association (NRA) was at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Washington, DC. The cattlemen and American Farm Bureau co-chair an important coalition supporting fair tax treatment for American agriculture. I had been a member of this coalition before joining NRA, representing growers. At this meeting, I was the only person representing processing companies as the rest worked for farm groups, agriculture cooperatives, and farm credit. However, we were “aggies” together, pulling in the same direction.

NRA makes for a large presence even with a small staff and conservative budget. One way this is done is by working with coalitions of like-minded allies to speak in one voice, sharing information and political intelligence, strategies, and resources. We learn about each other’s industries and focus on success for our members, together.

NRA is a member of 18 coalitions on important rendering issues. These collaborations are key to implementing two important parts of NRA’s mission in its 2020 Strategic Plan: to promote effective public policy, regulation, and technology; and to improve stakeholder awareness and understanding of the value of rendering.

American agriculture often cannot reach common ground about what is best for the future of the nation’s food, fiber, and feed chain. Farmers, ranchers, packers, processors, retailers, marketers, lenders, brokers, exporters, and others are a patchwork of buyers, sellers, and consumers with different interests and goals.

When Congress writes a new farm bill every four or five years, there is a lot of discussion about the best role for government in agriculture. For example, how much should government help farmers through hard times due to weather, low prices, unfair foreign competition, and other things beyond their control? Row crop growers traditionally want a government safety net but livestock producers do not. Another major issue is whether government support should be linked to “doing good” for the environment, sustainability, labor, and organic/local production. These are some of the hardest fights in the farm bill. With commodity prices at their lowest in many years, watch for fireworks as Congress starts to write a new farm bill later this year.

It is a different story on many other important agricultural issues. Agriculture is more united on taxes, trade, food safety, sustainability, environmental regulations, and defending against activists. That is where coalitions come into play. They often include allies outside agriculture for more strength to influence Congress, persuade regulators, and avoid counter attacks. Coalitions help NRA leverage issues into support from allies and promote rendering to strengthen the ability to successfully operate. NRA is involved in a number of valuable coalitions and collaborations.

With animal food safety so important to the future of rendering, NRA has been a member of the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance responsible for developing training to comply with the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). NRA joined the Food and Drug Administration and groups such as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), and Pet Food Institute (PFI) to write new curriculum to train preventive control qualified individuals (PCQI) required under the law. NRA’s input ensured that rendering provisions were correct and reasonable, which is critical for workable compliance with FSMA. Many PCQIs in the rendering industry have taken training seminars conducted by NRA’s Animal Protein Producers Industry Committee.

AAFCO is important to the rendering industry. NRA collaborates with state feed regulators in this group to provide recommendations and technical input on issues directly affecting rendered products. NRA has worked on a model state feed bill, feed ingredient definitions, and food safety education with AAFCO members.

NRA is a member of the new U.S. Sustainability Alliance, a group of agricultural organizations working together to educate consumers about American agriculture’s sustainability and commitment to conservation. The alliance’s website (www.thesustainabilityalliance.us) is often viewed by customers here and abroad and features an engaging fact sheet on “U.S. Renderers – A Global Leader in Sustainability.”

NRA is providing sustainability information about rendering to the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) for their upcoming issue paper on food waste and innovative solutions. NRA belongs to CAST and supports its mission to develop and communicate science-based information to policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.

NRA also works on animal health regulations and policies with the United States Animal Health Association. This group represents state veterinarians, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other government veterinarians, livestock groups, animal health providers, and several foreign countries.

Other science-based collaborations in which NRA participates include the Animal Agriculture Coalition that supports animal research and advocates for animal agriculture, the Food Industry Codex Coalition that works on international trading standards, and the Federation of Animal Science Societies that advocates for research investments and science in decision making. NRA is also active in both the American Meat Science Association, which represents university and processing company meat scientists, and the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists that certifies animal scientists and provides continuing education.

Because almost 20 percent of US rendered products are exported, overseas sales are essential to rendering profitability. US companies not exporting also benefit from product disappearance offshore. NRA promotes rendered product exports with offices in Mexico City, Mexico, and Hong Kong, China, a European trade advisor, and consultants around the world. The association also coordinates with AFIA and PFI in monthly phone calls to resolve trade problems and coordinate export promotion activities.

NRA receives about $1.7 million each year from USDA to promote sales of rendered products overseas. The association also belongs to the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports that advocates for strong funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development programs that provide these grants.

NRA participates in the U.S. Food and Agriculture Dialogue for Trade, a group of over 100 US food and feed groups and companies supporting strong export trade. This is especially important given objections to international agreements and global trade by many American voters. Meetings provide an opportunity to talk with senior government decision makers, trade negotiators, and foreign government leaders and officials. NRA is participating in dialogue meetings on Capitol Hill about the importance of negotiating a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that expands agricultural trade, including for rendered products. The dialogue trade group’s official position on the upcoming NAFTA negotiations includes NRA’s recommendation that greater market access among the United States, Mexico, and Canada should include adoption of consistent standards for animal health certification that follow World Organization for Animal Health standards.

As a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, NRA participates on their Environment and Agriculture Committee as well as the group’s Trade Task Force. This involvement provides valuable information on legislative and regulatory issues affecting rendering as well as networking opportunities to educate about rendering.

Congress may move ahead with a major tax overhaul this year. NRA is working to keep the need for tax credits for biodiesel and renewable diesel before the ag tax coalition mentioned above. Having broad agriculture support will be critical to maintain these tax credits in the face of efforts to streamline the tax code and eliminate special treatment provisions. NRA is also a member of the National Biodiesel Board and supports their efforts for a strong Renewable Fuel Standard and continued tax credits.

Communicating about rendering and defending the industry in a crisis are key roles of NRA. The association is a member of the Animal Agriculture Alliance and enlists their able assistance with resources and programs to counter negative news and promote the contributions of animal agriculture. NRA is also linked into the informal but effective agriculture communicator’s network, a group of communications professionals working for agricultural groups who share information about expected media coverage.

Coalitions come and go, depending on the fight that needs to be won. Some come together to prevent damage from new threats and others seize good opportunities to grow markets.

Being involved in these coalitions makes NRA more efficient and effective for its members. There is synergy and sharing of information and resources that occurs to benefit all coalition members.


June 2017 RENDER | back