SFA Members Take Concerns To Hill at 2012 Legislative Summit
Some 40 members of the Snack Food Association met with their Congressmen, Senators and key staff members May 16 on Capitol Hill in Washington and expressed their concern about several governmental issues important to their businesses and the industry.
The 2012 SFA Legislative Summit got underway with a luncheon address by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who said he strongly supports efforts to “reign in” burdensome government regulations and agrees with SFA’s opposition to efforts to restrict food choices under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“Low income people don’t need food police looking over their shoulder,” he declared, noting that the 2012 Farm Bill, now in progress on Capitol Hill, does not include such provisions – although restrictive amendments are expected to be proposed.
He urged snack food executives, during their visit with lawmakers, to “tell them what is going on with your business” and not to be shy about explaining how overreaching legislative and regulatory initiatives can be harmful and can impact the local communities they represent.
That’s exactly what SFA members did during some 56 individual meetings in the offices of both Congressmen and Senators. On their agenda:
Support for efforts to protect customers from unsafe food products and substances, but opposition to new fees on the industry to pay for implementation of the new Food Safety Modernization Act.
Opposition to revising the SNAP to limit choice for participants, and specifically opposition to S. 2016 introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), which allows states to disincentivize the purchase of “junk food.”
Opposition to proposals that would limit the ability of employers to use independent contractors, such as independent delivery people, to supplement their workforce and subject them to the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Support for reform of the 2012 Farm Bill to make the sugar program more market-oriented.
Support for efforts to reduce the impact biofuels have on food costs, including reforms to the Renewable Fuel Standard and legislation to require testing of ethanol blends before market introduction.
Support for the ability of employees to voluntarily choose – or not choose – union representation without intimidation or coercion by union organizers or employers. SFA supports the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Acts (H.R. 3094) introduced by Rep. John Kline (R-MN).
During their meetings, SFA members detailed their concerns regarding those issues, explaining the impact that they would have on their individual businesses.
For example, Dave Jones, executive vice president, Golden Flake Snack Foods, Inc., Birmingham, AL explained to Graham Hixon, legislative assistant to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), that while ethanol originally was a good idea, its impact on food grains, such as corn, has resulted in dramatic price increases on commodities used by his company and other snack food manufacturers.
Meeting with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Richard Rudolph, president, and Mike Harper, vice president finance and chief financial officer, Rudolph Foods Company, Lima, OH and Dan McGrady, vice president, technical services, Wyandot, Inc., Marion, OH, outlined their concern regarding limiting food choices in the SNAP program.
Jordan concurred, although he said the SNAP program needed to be reformed to curb abuse. “But when you are helping people, treat them with respect,” he said. “They are Americans. We don’t tell other Americans what to buy at the grocery story, and we shouldn’t tell them.”
Meeting with Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH), Scott Smith, president, Shearer’s Foods, Inc., Brewster, OH, explained that many snack food manufacturers use independent route salesmen to deliver their products and place them in stores. “They like being small business people, and it would be wrong for the federal government to take that away from them,” he said, referring to efforts to restrict the use of independent contractors.
And so it went in meeting after meeting, with lawmakers rushing back to their officers for appointments between votes and committee meetings and legislative aides standing in when needed.
“We get a lot of value out of these meetings,” said Smith as the day concluded with a reception honoring SFA’s 75th anniversary. “You have to be part of the process.”
SFA President and CEO Jim McCarthy noted that SFA moved its offices to Washington in the 1970s to be closer to where key decisions are made that could affect the business operations of member companies. “It was important then,” McCarthy said, “and it’s even more important to do that we are here to personally and visibly represent our industry.”