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Turnover In Legislature Puts GFIA’s Focus On Preparation

GFIA Georgia economy
Kathy Kuzava

Group targeting policies that could address labor, supply chain issues

The Georgia Food Industry Association is dealing with many new faces – 53 to be exact – as the state legislature gathers in Atlanta for its annual session. That influx of new lawmakers makes preparation critical, according to GFIA President Kathy Kuzava.

“GFIA members are known to have excellent relationships with their elected officials, especially critical with all the newly elected leaders…preparing for the session means being ready for any surprises,” she explained. “We are working to get to know the newly elected officials and build even stronger relationships with our experienced leaders.”

The legislative session, which began Jan. 9, will continue until late March or early April. It is the only time GFIA representatives have this year to get to know legislators and lobby for their members’ interests. But the turnover has not dampened hopes.

“Gov. Brian Kamp won a strong victory to secure another term in office, but there are many other changes, including new leadership in both the House and Senate,” Kuzava said.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones won a three-way race to replace Geoff Duncan, who decided not to run again. Speaker Jon Burns is the new leader in the House following the death of his predecessor, David Ralston.

“The three leaders have worked with the GFIA and our members for many years, and we look forward to their leadership this session,” Kuzava said.

As for the session itself, the association is focusing on lobbying for policies that could help address labor shortages, supply chain issues and organized retail cime. Also on the radar are inflation, pharmacy regulations and swipe fees.

Finding and retaining employees is the biggest challenge GFIA members are facing.

“We hear this from retailers, wholesalers and supplier members. Employers are finding it harder than ever to train and develop a strong team with so much turnover,” Kuzava said.

“Although there are improvements, especially as government money is slowing down, there is still a serious labor shortage, especially finding quality employees who are not looking to work from home.”

To exacerbate the labor and supply chain woes, driver shortages continue to hamper the industry.

“Refrigeration, plumbing and electrical service providers can’t find workers,” Kuzava said. “Members report that the lack of labor causes their existing employees to be overworked and require higher wages to get them to work.”

The supply chain issues are particularly affecting independent retailers.

“This ‘whack a mole’ problem ranges from well-known shortages of baby formula to a lack of cold and flu medication, to pet food and pie shells,” Kuzava said.

Georgia retail pharmacies enjoyed some expanded capabilities due to the federal PREP act, which increased vaccine availability by authorizing pharmacy techs and interns to administer vaccinations. The GFIA is pushing for pharmacies to retain that right.

Much like the rest of the nation, Kuzava said GFIA members are expressing concern over the increased cost of doing business, including “everything from wages, to credit card swipe fees, to insurance, to refrigerants.”

“GFIA will push to prohibit a swipe fee from being imposed against a merchant on the tax portion of a transaction when a purchase is made from the merchant using a credit card,” she said. “Inflation is an issue that has affected the purchasing power of our customers. The high prices of groceries, combined with less government money, are forcing customers to be more conscious in their purchase patterns, with more emphasis on smaller packs and private label.”

As for association business, GFIA will hold a number of events in the upcoming year, including its annual legislative reception Jan. 24, held in partnership with the Georgia Beverage Association. Members of both groups are invited to spend time with their elected officials. To view the photo gallery from the event taken by The Shelby Report, click here.

“This is always a wonderful opportunity to spend time with our leaders and let them know the challenges our industry faces,” Kuzava said.

Other events include the Education Foundation Spring Golf Tournament on March 22, the annual convention July 12-16 and the Independent Council Meeting and Fall Golf Tournament, which has yet to be set.

About the author

Jack R. Jordan

Content Creator

Jordan joined The Shelby Report in May 2022 after over a year in the newspaper industry. A native of Marietta, Georgia, he studied writing and communications at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. He spends too much time in the grocery store trying to find recipe ingredients, so he looks forward to covering the industry.

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