With an election on the horizon in which the White House and control of Congress are on the line, 2024 is shaping up to be an interesting year. Pending legislation and regulatory changes in the coming year are sure to influence business operations, supply chain management and consumer expectations – and indeed, they’re influencing NGA’s advocacy efforts as well.
To be sure, the past 12 months have been busy for NGA in support of independent grocers. Breaking it down by the numbers reveals a flurry of activity that has helped make significant inroads toward our policy goals: nearly 200 meetings between independent grocers and policymakers during last spring’s Fly-In for Fair Competition in Washington, D.C.; 35 advocacy meetings convened during last fall’s Executive Conference and Public Policy Summit; at the time of this writing, 20 action alerts sent this past year, calling members to action on matters of policy; 22 store tours that hosted elected officials to illustrate the impact of policy on their local communities; and more than 2,000 grassroots messages sent to Capitol Hill, including personal outreach from NGA members to their members of Congress during a push to support the Credit Card Competition Act, a bipartisan effort that would bring crippling swipe fees under control.
Additionally, NGA launched Grocery Guard, a “grasstops” initiative creating a nationwide network of owners and industry leaders who have volunteered to contact a member of Congress when independent grocers need to relay the importance of a particular issue impacting the industry. And efforts by NGA and our memebers helped to secure an extension of the EBT processing fee prohibition in the Farm Bill extension.
These wins are adding momentum to independent grocers’ policy priorities for 2024.
Antitrust reform remains at the top of the list. NGA seeks revived enforcement of the Robinson-Patman Act (RPA), which levels the playing field for smaller retailers by prohibiting dominant retail buyers from using their muscle to secure more favorable terms on goods than competitors.
Progress has included congressional pressure on the FTC to enforce RPA; enactment of federal law allowing State Attorneys General to more strictly enforce antitrust laws; advancement of NGA-drafted legislation that would give the Small Business Administration power to address anticompetitive conduct; and enhanced public awareness through the media. There’s still plenty more to do, including more congressional hearings and introduction of RPA reform legislation.
Support for credit card reform is growing due to our grassroots strength, our cultivated champions in Congress, and the powerful message of independent grocers who serve at the heart of their communities. Requiring the 30 largest issuers of credit cards to enable dual routing would create more competition for an expense that is particularly burdensome for smaller retailers.
The current Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2023, and the recent one-year extension comes as Congress works toward a new five-year plan. NGA will continue its work to advance a comprehensive bill that includes a permanent ban on EBT processing fees, maintaining SNAP Choice to allow participants to choose the right foods for their family; stopping the SNAP Nutrition Security Act to protect consumer and retailer data from burdensome reporting that could lead to SNAP restrictions; and expanding nutrition incentives by streamlining access to produce.
Meanwhile, numerous regulatory developments in play revolve around labor and workforce, including the OSHA walkaround rule , overtime rule changes, a return to the “ambush” election rule, and the NLRB Joint-Employer Standard. To limit their impact on independent grocers, NGA has filed comments with the relevant agencies and participated in public hearings, lobbied Congress to roll back potentially harmful rules, and joined alliances with other organizations such as the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.
Additional regulatory activity is aimed at other aspects of business operations, such as the refrigeration HFC phasedown. The AIM Act, signed in twilight of the Trump presidency, implements an international treaty that phases out HFCs due to their ozone-depleting properties that will require supermarkets to re-equip their refrigeration systems, estimated to cost around $1.5 million per store. NGA has allied with FMI, NRF and RILA to advocate for minimizing the impact on retailers. Additionally, a new FDA traceability rule under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FMSA) requires grocers and wholesalers to maintain a traceability plan that requires grocers to provide traceability information with 24 hours’ notice. NGA has filed comments with the FDA and is trying to obtain an extension of the Jan. 1, 2026, compliance deadline, and has entered into solution partnerships.
It’s truly a historic time for independent grocer advocacy. In what is essentially a three-front battle for the future of the industry, there’s real opportunity to level the playing field for the first time since RPA’s passage in 1936; a good chance to lower swipe fees and bringing competition to the credit card marketplace; and the opportunity to strengthen federal nutrition programs that bolster independent grocers’ efforts to feed communities across the country.
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