SFA Takes Concerns to Congress During 2011 Legislative Summit

December 31, 2011

SFA takes concerns to congress during 2011 legislative summit_other.jpgMore than 40 snack food executives met with members of Congress and key staff members May 10 in their Capitol Hill offices and asked for help on soaring commodity costs and other key government-related concerns as part of the Snack Food Association's 2011 Legislative Summit.

The conference, held May 9-11 in Washington, DC, brought member company executives face-to-face with lawmakers in some 60 private meetings that included discussions on the impact of biofuels policy on commodity prices, preserving choice for Food Stamp recipients, avoiding new regulatory requirements on hiring independent contractors, and assuring the right of employees to vote on proposals to unionize their workplace.
It was SFA 2011 Chairman Matt Colford's third Summit, an experience that he says is critical to standing up for the industry and his company, Old Dutch Foods.

"Being here does matter. Having your voice heard does matter. Opinions and policies can change, and they do change. But you have to participate," he said following meetings with Sen. Al Franken (D-MI) and legislative aides to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MI)and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MI).

The meeting with Sen. Franken typified many of those between other SFA members and their lawmakers. Colford carefully explained the industry's concerns about the impact of diverting corn from food uses to the production of ethanol, and its hopes that the current 45-cent per gallon ethanol tax credit will be permitted to expire as scheduled on December 31. He said SFA also opposes approval of E-15 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Franken said he believes the tax credit will be phased out as the ethanol industry transitions away from using corn to cellulosic materials. He expressed opposition to efforts to prevent Food Stamp recipients from purchasing specific foods, such as snack products, agreeing with SFA's view that this would further stigmatize those who must rely on this government assistance.

Across Capitol Hill, a group of snack industry executives from Ohio-based companies heard Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) express concerns about the budget deficit and the need to slash federal spending - a message that dovetailed with SFA's view that cutting the ethanol subsidy would save upwards of $6 billion annually.

Nick Chilton, Wyandot, Inc., pointed out that 40 percent of the corn crop this year will be used for ethanol and that many farmers are planting corn rather than other crops, such as potatoes, to benefit from the higher prices that have reached upwards of $8 per bushel this year compared to about $2 in 2008.

"This is definitely driving up food prices," said Chilton. "The issue is that ethanol needs to compete on a fair basis." Also participating in that meeting were Rich Rudolph, Rudolph Foods Company, Inc; Scott Smith, Shearer's Foods, Inc.; and Dan McGrady, Wyandot, Inc.

Daryl Thomas, Herr Foods Inc., covered the issues in a meeting with Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA).

"We take exception to excluding people from the SNAP (Food Stamp) program," said Thomas. "Our industry has responded (to nutritional concerns) and many of our products are not just tasty and enjoyable, but nutritious as well. We ask that snack foods continue to be part of SNAP."

Pitts was pleased that SFA members were urging lawmakers to support his legislation to reform the sugar program and make it more market-oriented. SFA is also urging USDA to increase the raw and refined sugar tariff rate quotas for the remainder of the marketing year.

Another key concern discussed by SFA members during their Capitol Hill meetings involves restrictions on Mexican-domiciled trucking companies in the United States, which have resulted in Mexico imposing tariffs on imports from the U.S. at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion in lost exports and more than 25,000 jobs.

"I'm with you," said Pitts as he left his office for a vote on the House floor.

Prior to the Capitol Hill meetings, Bernadette Budde, senior vice president at the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) encouraged SFA members to establish strong relationships with lawmakers, including those Democrats who have the potential of being supportive on specific issues, as well as with the many new freshman Members who are now in Congress.

The Summit concluded with a reception, where SFA members met with guests from Capitol Hill and recapped their visits.

"This gives us a chance to explain our concerns about issues that are important to us," said Rich Rudolph, Rudolph Foods Company, Inc. "Some of those we met with are very much aligned with our views, while others at least listened to us. But if we don't show up and we don't say anything, we won't be heard."

Also participating in the Summit with SFA were the Tortilla Industry Association and the Peanut & Tree Nut Processors Association.