Food safety, wheat market changes and nutrition and wellness top the American Bakers Association’s (ABA) list of the most important legislative and regulatory issues the bakery industry is facing.
These are the issues under the ABA is focused on:
ABA is leading industry implementation strategies for the new Food Safety Modernization Act. These include responses to FDA proposals that would impact the baking industry.
Volatility in the wheat market
Commodity market volatility remains high due to the influence of index funds in the markets. ABA is working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to create responsible market regulations that secure future participation for traditional market participants.
Nutrition and wellness
ABA says it continues to “lead the grain chain on dietary guidelines nutrition policy issues.” These include grain messaging for the MyPlate food icon, USDA’s school meal standard proposal, marketing to children, sodium reduction strategies and front-of-pack labeling opportunities.
Labor and workforce issues
In the 111th Congress, ABA successfully prevented proposals from becoming law, including the Employee Free Choice Act (Card Check), the Employee Misclassification Act and the Patriot Employer Act. While the legislative threat is neutralized, ABA says it is working closely with 112th Congress to address major concerns with the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) activist agenda. According to the ABA, the NLRB is attempting to dramatically prohibit employer bargaining rights and election timelines, as well as decrease the size and scope of a bargaining unit, making it easier for unions to target smaller numbers of employees.
The Energy Star Challenge for the baking industry highlights ABA’s sustainable development efforts. Customers and consumers have placed an increased emphasis on corporate citizenship and operational efficiency. ABA continues to partner with the Allied Trades of the Baking Industry and grain chain to develop sustainability guidance for the baking industry.
Sugar program reform
The current U.S. sugar program costs bakers and consumers upwards of $4 billion dollars each year in higher sugar costs and has led to a loss of more than 112,000 U.S. jobs since 1997. According to the ABA, sugar policy has restricted imports for many years, leading to dangerously low supplies. ABA is working with Congress to create a more baker- and consumer-friendly sugar program.
Biotechnology and wheat research
Federal funds for USDA’s basic wheat research initiatives are severely threatened. ABA is actively urging members of Congress to continue wheat research to improve yield, nutritional quality and disease resistance to benefit both bakers and consumers. ABA also is working together with the wheat growers and millers to address issues surrounding the future commercialization of biotech wheat.
Proof box emissions
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) may seek precedent-setting control requirements for proof boxes that would significantly impact ABA members nationwide. The estimates for these controls could range from $150,000–$180,000 per ton of volatile organic compounds per bakery line. These would include capital costs, added personnel time, inefficiencies and interruption of production, and additional energy costs. ABA continues to actively engage with IDEM and bakers to find a solution.
Healthcare reform and new regulations
Congress passed a massive overhaul of the healthcare system in 2010. Soon to be enforced provisions include a new tax on healthcare plans, an employer mandate to provide a certain level of healthcare benefits, new restrictions on HSAs and FSAs and much more. ABA is actively engaged in “repeal and replace” efforts in the 112th Congress. ABA will continue to seek opportunities to mitigate the impact to the baking industry.
Corn-based ethanol has accelerated the decrease of wheat acreage in the U.S. over the past 30 years and tightened food supplies around the world. Further, the 30-year-old ethanol tax credit costs the nation more than $6 billion dollars per year. The Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit expired at the end of 2011. After three decades, this is a first step toward restoring the balance between food and fuel crops, says ABA. The organization called on bakers to march on Washington four years ago as part of the Band of Bakers, “starting a change of attitudes around the country and on Capitol Hill regarding ethanol.”
Founded in 1897, the ABA is the Washington D.C.-based voice of the wholesale baking industry. ABA represents the interests of bakers before the U.S. Congress, federal agencies and international regulatory authorities. ABA advocates on behalf of more than 1,000 baking facilities and baking company suppliers. These members produce bread, rolls, crackers, bagels, sweet goods, tortillas and many other baked products. The baking industry generates more than $102 billion in economic activity annually and employs more than 706,000 highly skilled people.