NRA at Work: 2017 Year in Review

By Nancy Foster, President, National Renderers Association

Rendering challenges continued this year and the National Renderers Association (NRA) stepped up to meet them. It has been an eventful and demanding 2017 for the United States (US) and Canadian rendering industries and the association.

A new US president and Congress in Washington, DC, brought a welcome break in onerous regulation. However, together they are still trying to enact the Republican agenda of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” reduce taxes, address immigration, and fund major infrastructure repair. Looming major foreign policy and military challenges, notably nuclear threats from North Korea, an uneasy relationship with Russia, and international terrorism have by necessity taken much attention.

Meanwhile, there is now an open door and a listening ear at federal agencies. To promote the best interests of the rendering industry, NRA worked closely this year with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), and other federal regulatory offices.

NRA’s 2020 Strategic Plan continued to drive association programs this year. Too often a lot of work goes into creating strategic plans and then they sit unused on the shelf. Not at NRA. In its second year, the plan emphasizes continued development of the strength and effectiveness of the organization to meet the industry’s needs. It focuses on promoting rendering’s sustainability brand, and growing and defending markets for rendered products. The strategic plan also stresses a strong NRA membership base and achieving workable government decisions affecting the industry’s freedom to operate.

NRA’s leaders who wrote the strategic plan had a clear vision: “To deliver sustainable rendering solutions to our global community.” NRA’s mission is “To advocate for a sustainable food chain, public health, and the environment through the production and marketing of rendered products and services.” To accomplish this mission, the association:
• promotes effective public policy, regulation, and technology;
• encourages responsible business practices;
• supports free movement of rendered products in domestic and international markets; and
• improves stakeholder awareness and understanding of the value of rendering.

NRA is truly a member-driven and proactive group working hard to protect and promote the industry’s interests. Under the able leadership of Chairman Tim Guzek of Sanimax, many industry leaders dedicated their time and talents this year to NRA’s Board of Directors and its 11 working committees.

Over 75 individuals are on these working committees, meeting at least twice a year and conferring in between when important issues demand attention. These committees recommend policies and programs to the NRA Board of Directors.

At NRA’s annual convention in October, new leadership takes the helm. Guzek has served the association exceptionally well over the past two years as NRA chairman. His enthusiasm, wisdom, and management skills have been an asset in moving the association forward. We thank him for his service. Guzek will become the immediate past chairman and continue to serve on the NRA Executive Committee.

NRA’s incoming chairman is Ridley Bestwick of West Coast Reduction Ltd. in Vancouver, Canada. A certified public accountant by training, Bestwick serves as the company’s chief financial officer and has held numerous leadership roles at NRA, including as first vice-chairman, treasurer, and chairman of the Audit and Budget Committee. Doyle Leefers of National Beef in Kansas City, Missouri, will move up as NRA’s first vice-chairman and a new second vice-chairman will be selected at the convention upon the recommendation of the Nominating Committee.

NRA’s financial foundation is strong. Importantly, membership dues sustain the association’s work to improve the industry by supporting its various programs and staff. Together, volunteer industry leaders and NRA staff produce results and membership dues make that possible. NRA also receives approximately $1.7 million a year in USDA grants to increase foreign market access for rendered products and promote export sales.

NRA serves its members through five major programs: scientific services, international market development, legislative advocacy, communications and information, and meetings. Synergy between NRA and the Fats and Protein Research Foundation (FPRF), the rendering industry’s research organization, ensures that knowledge gained through important research is used to develop workable solutions for the industry in regulations, legislation, and sustainability.

Food Safety, Science, and Regulation
This year, NRA’s scientific services program again offered training to prepare members for implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Ninety more people were certified as preventive controls qualified individuals using an FDA-recognized curriculum that NRA helped write. The association’s work with FDA on joint goals for animal food safety has ensured the best possible position for the industry going into several years of implementing the new regulations.

NRA’s Animal Protein Producers Industry Committee revised the Rendering Code of Practice to be consistent with FSMA so certification prepares members for future FDA inspections. The program is offered jointly with the American Feed Industry Association’s internationally-recognized Safe Feed/Safe Food program. NRA staff also assisted member companies in preparation for FSMA compliance by providing education and guidance.

This year, NRA educated the pet food industry about the sustainability and safety of rendered products. Staff spoke at the Petfood Forum in Kansas City, Missouri, about the importance and benefits of rendered products for pet food. Rendered products contribute to improving the sustainability footprint of pet food, which is a driving market force now for consumers.

NRA had additional success at the American Association of Feed Control Officials annual meeting this summer (see “Keeping an Eye on AAFCO Activities” in this issue). In addition, NRA and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducted a workshop to identify obstacles to using rendering in a foreign animal disease outbreak response and ways to overcome them. This is one step in an overall effort to get the public and government to think of rendering when considering the sustainability of agriculture.

Synergies with FPRF Research
Research is the lifeblood of many industries and drives competitiveness and innovation. While the purpose of FPRF is to fund research to enhance current uses for rendered animal products and develop new ones, the rendering industry benefits from FPRF and NRA coordination.

This was the first full year that FSMA’s current good manufacturing practices have been required under regulation. FDA requires hazard analyses and preventive controls to be in place but has delayed inspections for this part of FSMA until it finalizes guidance on what it expects to see. FPRF research proving the effectiveness of rendering cookers to eliminate microbiological hazards has been the foundation of the industry’s defense.

NRA is working hard to strengthen relationships with the pet food industry, an important customer category. One promising result is a willingness to work together to solve joint problems in policy, procedures, and research. Early this year, FPRF formed a pet food alliance with Colorado State University for a new coordinated focus on rendering and pet food research with additional stakeholders. It is hoped this beginning will lead to strong research proposals and attract new funding to strengthen relationships with one of rendering’s main consumers. Additional FSMA-related concerns from pet food manufacturers about the possibility of recontamination of fat products have led to new partnerships in research with the Pet Food Institute and two joint FPRF research projects.

FPRF-funded research is conducted at universities across the country and at the Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) at Clemson University. ACREC continues to give FPRF the ability to focus research and provide sustainable funding in areas of inquiry important to renderers while developing a cadre of researchers familiar with rendering. This endeavor has produced useful research results in food safety, product quality, new uses, and new technologies, all important to marketing rendered products competitively worldwide.

To learn more about FPRF, please contact Jessica Meisinger, David Meeker, or visit

Protecting Export Markets, Expanding Trade
Exports are important to profitability since almost 20 percent of US rendered products are sold overseas. This foreign demand supports US prices for the entire industry.

Over the years, NRA’s international program has coordinated with USDA to open new markets for rendered products but behind-the-scenes efforts to keep markets open are time consuming. NRA successfully resolved a serious problem that started in 2015 when the US poultry industry was hit with high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Most markets, except China, remained open for rendered poultry products due to the time and temperature requirements that were added to the Terrestrial Animal Health Code chapter on avian influenza of the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE. Many years earlier, NRA worked with USDA to add those time and temperature requirements to the code as a preemptive measure to save exports of rendered poultry and feather meals in case of an HPAI outbreak.

NRA worked behind the scenes with USDA while Peng Li, director of NRA’s Asia region office, did the same with China’s feed safety office and the local Chinese industry during recent negotiations to re-open that market after the 2015 HPAI outbreak in the United States. This intense, quiet work, along with the OIE time and temperature requirement, was essential in gaining quick re-opening of China’s important poultry and feather meal market. To date, the United States is the only country that has had HPAI that can ship poultry products to China.

NRA also organized an audit by China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine to assist US non-ruminant facilities in maintaining exports to China. This audit took more than a year to organize and was finalized late last fall. The audit was a legal requirement for China to accept imports and was essential in keeping the market open. It is predicted that exports of poultry meal to China in 2017 will be a record 170,000 metric tons, up 23 percent from last year. This is one example of how NRA’s international program benefits the entire North American rendering industry. 

NRA continues to keep rendered products top of mind for US trade officials regarding other foreign markets as well. Staff serves as trade advisors on official federal advisory committees at the invitation of the secretary of agriculture and USTR. This author represents the rendering industry on the overall Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee while Kent Swisher, vice president of NRA International Programs, serves on the Agriculture Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products.

When US President Donald Trump’s administration decided to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) this year, NRA started advocating for three goals in the new agreement: (1) “do no harm” to current exports, (2) gain market access for ruminant meat and bone meal into Mexico, and (3) finalize the US small ruminant rule to allow United States access to mixed animal fat and used cooking oil from Canada. NRA met with US NAFTA negotiators who are now receptive to our position. NRA also became a member of the new North American Market Working Group coalition of agricultural producers, processors, and traders to promote open trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. NRA joined coalition members to advocate for its NAFTA priorities in meetings on Capitol Hill and with US trade negotiators and foreign embassy officials.

Advocating for Rendering
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” says Dave Kaluzny of Kaluzny Bros. who chairs NRA’s Legislative Action Committee. That is why the association has an active political program advocating for the interests of the rendering industry to Congress and the Trump administration. In 2017, NRA’s political lobbyist, Steve Kopperud of SLK Strategies, continued to work with NRA staff to press the best case for renderers in Washington, DC.

Early this year, NRA’s Legislative Action Committee identified the top legislative issues for 2017: rendering sustainability, increased biodiesel production, strong funding for USDA grant programs supporting NRA’s international market development program, NAFTA negotiations, and food waste legislation in the farm bill.

NRA continued to expand its presence on Capitol Hill in 2017 through personal meetings with congressional members and their advisors. The group also joined coalition meetings with other agricultural lobbyists on a variety of issues and met with administration officials to advocate on important rendering topics.

NRA’s Annual Washington Fly-in in June brought renderers from across the country to meet with their representatives and senators about top legislative issues. They held approximately 200 meetings on Capitol Hill, an impressive number during their short visit. Renderers also heard from government and business leaders about the outlook for US exports, the agriculture economy (including livestock and poultry), FSMA implementation, and then-new USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue’s agenda.

Since rendering produces 30 percent of the feedstock used to make US biodiesel and renewable diesel, government policies affecting the production of these fuels are important. Early this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed its first-ever cut to the advanced biofuel Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) obligated volumes and did not increase the RFS for biomass-based diesel, both steps in the wrong direction. NRA Biofuels Chairman Doug Smith of Baker Commodities testified at EPA’s public hearing this summer on the importance of increasing the RFS in 2018 and 2019. NRA also submitted regulatory comments to EPA strongly urging a higher RFS for biodiesel, renewable diesel, and advanced biofuels. The association coordinated closely with the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) to present a united position to EPA.

Looking ahead, Capitol Hill appears ready to tackle tax reform but it is too soon to know if biodiesel tax credits will be included. The situation is fluid and currently tax writers are considering a streamlined approach to reduce tax levels and categories. Together with NBB, NRA is urging support for these biodiesel tax credits in Congress.

Branding the Rendering Industry – Communications
This year, NRA’s communications program built an outreach branding strategy and identified projects to promote rendering sustainability across a variety of marketing platforms. Materials for membership recruitment were prepared, “frequently asked questions” were updated on the NRA website, and a teaching module on rendering was provided to academic meat scientists at agriculture colleges and universities.

NRA staff fielded many questions from reporters and was able to successfully refocus potentially damaging media articles to prevent negative results for the industry. Time spent with journalists educates them about the industry and helps to makes NRA a go-to source of information for the next story.

NRA’s new monthly newsletter, the NRA Update, kept members in close touch with happenings and news on rendering issues and association activities. Staff also continued to contribute articles to and collaborate with Render magazine, the industry’s independent bi-monthly international publication.

An important communications priority for the coming year at NRA is to provide tools to members so they can communicate effectively about the industry to their communities and local decision makers.

NRA Meetings – An Important Membership Benefit
With so much work to do, so many meetings already, and so much traveling time, who needs yet another meeting? In this busy world, it is easy to feel this way. In contrast, NRA members say the association’s meetings are a major benefit of belonging to the group. They see their peers, catch up on the latest industry news, and develop important personal industry connections. At NRA meetings, members work together to solve common industry problems with the government and learn about new technology solutions. They also come for training to learn how to improve feed safety and quality, and how to comply with government regulations such as those required under FSMA.

NRA hosts several meetings a year with the fall annual convention the most widely attended by renderers from the United States, Canada, and elsewhere around the world. The convention provides up-to-date information on livestock and poultry markets, the international rendering outlook, and fresh speakers that encourage members to think “outside the box” to adapt to change and new trends.

Looking Ahead
Next year promises to be another fast-paced one with changing markets, a mid-term US election, more regulatory reform, and geopolitics affecting the world rendering trade. Being part of NRA gives renderers important information for business planning and managing risk. If you are in the rendering industry or do business with renderers, I encourage you to join NRA. You’ll be glad you did.

October 2017 RENDER | back