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GFIA Discusses Legislative Session, Educates Members

Kathy Kuzava

The Georgia Food Industry Association and its president, Kathy Kuzava, were busy preparing for the current legislative session, as well as educating their members on topics ranging from the latest COVID-19 guidance to SNAP, P-SNAP and P-EBT benefits, and Georgia’s 2022 e-WIC rollout schedule. 

Elections will be on the minds of many, Kuzava said. 

“All state representatives, state senators, statewide elected officials (governor, lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner, secretary of state, attorney general, insurance commissioner, and department of labor), and a U.S. senator are up for election in November. Candidates will qualify March 7-11 and the primary election is May 24.”

For Democrats, Kuzava predicts they are likely to see a continued focus on labor issues such as increased minimum wage, paid time off and increased access to healthcare services. 

“So many labor bills were introduced last year, it was hard to keep up. From a $15 minimum wage to mandated parental leave, there are many labor bills still pending that could negatively affect our industry,” she said.

Kuzava expects Republicans will push legislation that addresses crime rates. She also predicts the party’s opposition to certain pandemic-related mandates. 

“We expect to see strong statements against COVID-related vaccine mandates and local mandates relating to the pandemic,” she said. “Given that COVID has further highlighted the need for healthcare workers, we have highlighted the role that our retail pharmacies have played in providing vaccinations.”

During the 2021 regular legislative session, GFIA tracked 143 pieces of legislation on everything from alcohol, taxes and organized retail crime to pharmacy, plastic prohibitions, gaming and tort. “Most of these bills remain viable for this year,” she said.

Member concerns 

During the week of Dec. 27, Kuzava reported that Georgia faced a “record number” of positive cases of COVID-19 as the omicron variant spread across the state. 

“Our members, who are already having labor challenges, are worried about how to run their operations with additional employees getting sick after the holidays,” she said. 

Kuzava noted that many GFIA members were also “very concerned” about how a vaccine mandate would “further damage” the ability to attract employees, adding “not to mention how to comply with such a massive undertaking. “

The supply chain also remains a common area of focus. “The challenges with the supply chain continue to frustrate our industry,” she said. “A panel of supermarket executives spoke at our annual convention in July, and the challenges continue today. Customers are unfortunately getting used to seeing holes in the shelves.”

Other points of conversation are the increased costs of goods. “Retail inflation is finally catching up to cost inflation,” she said. 

Lastly, crime has been discussed frequently. “Theft and losses are happening at a higher rate than ever before and keeping employees and customers safe is the No. 1 priority of any business,” she said.

Upcoming events 

GFIA has its legislative reception scheduled for Jan. 25. The Georgia Food Industry Education Foundation golf tournament is March 23, and their annual convention is slated for July 13-17. Visit gfia.org for more information.

The association’s education foundation is offering about 133 scholarships worth more than $170,000 to deserving GFIA members and their children. Applications will be accepted until March 3.

For more information, visit gfia.org.

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