by Peter Larkin/ president and CEO, National Grocers Association
Special to The Shelby Report
Last year was an exciting one for the supermarket industry, which is perhaps undergoing more rapid change than at any other time. As usual, though, independent grocers proved—once again—that they’re the best equipped to evolve with changing times and serve their communities.
NGA is proud to help independent supermarket operators keep their fingers on the pulse of their consumers while ensuring our industry’s voice rings loud and clear in Washington. Just as the grocery business is shifting, so too are the many federal policies that impact a store’s ability to thrive. The year 2017 has been full of accomplishments guaranteed to help independent grocers grow their stores, expand offerings and hire more staff.
Below are summaries of the policy issues that our government relations team actively engaged in throughout the year on behalf of the industry:
Durbin Amendment/Debit Card Swipe Fee Reform
Last May, the independent supermarket industry and entire retail community scored a major victory after House Republican leadership announced lawmakers would no longer include a provision in the Financial Choice Act (H.R. 10) that would have repealed debit swipe fee reform.
NGA worked tirelessly to help ensure this provision was removed from the measure and played a leading role in the coalition to defeat the efforts. If debit reforms were repealed, retailers would have seen their swipe fees increase by a staggering 200 percent despite already paying the world’s highest swipe fees. The annual Supermarket Industry Day in Washington fly-in took place while the House Financial Services Committee marked up the legislation, giving supermarket operators the opportunity to meet with their lawmakers before the bill was advanced out of committee.
With a more business-friendly Administration at the helm, we’ve seen numerous burdensome regulations rolled back and many others re-evaluated. NGA has been at the forefront of these issues, pushing for common-sense solutions that will help independent grocers to continue investing in their communities.
Some of the largest wins for the industry that NGA helped accomplish include defeating the costly overtime rule that would have required employers to pay overtime to salaried workers earning less than $47,646, suspending the EE-01 pay data reporting requirement, rescinding the Browning-Ferris “joint employer” rule that expands liability for franchises, withdrawal of estate evaluation rules that would have increased estate taxes, overturning an NLRB rule allowing “micro-units” of workers to unionize and a re-evaluation of “quickie election” NLRB rules.
President Trump recently signed into law the most comprehensive tax reform package in more than 30 years, and NGA played a large role in helping shape the final bill and push it across the finish line. The landmark legislation lowers rates for both C-corporations and pass-through businesses and retains many important tax policies that drive growth in the independent supermarket industry. These include doubling the exemption for the estate tax, eliminating the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax, preserving the advertising and interest expense deductions, preserving the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Preserving the Last-In, First-Out method of accounting, and full and immediate expensing of new buildings and equipment.
NGA spearheaded several letters to Congress on behalf of member companies and state associations as the proposal made its way through the legislative process and helped more than 2,000 activists reach out to their representatives.
FDA Menu Labeling Regulations
There wasn’t much downtime in between the menu labeling regulation being delayed to May 7, 2018, and our attempts to find a solution that creates the flexibility needed for grocers to feasibly comply. In July, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a markup on the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 772) and approved the bill. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate, and we continue to encourage our legislative champions to push for a floor vote in both the House and Senate this fall.
On the regulatory front, NGA submitted written comments to the FDA highlighting industry’s concerns with the proposed menu labeling rule. Most recently, however, consumer advocacy organizations dropped their lawsuit after the FDA agreed to enforce the menu labeling rule in May 2018.