Nicholas Pyle, president, Independent Bakers Association (IBA), Washington, D.C., responds to Baking Management’s inquiries about pending legislation and regulatory issues affecting the baking industry.
Baking Management: What priorities do you anticipate the new administration will set in the coming months that could impact the baking industry?
Nicholas Pyle: The Obama administration's priorities are focused on getting the economy moving. Foreign policy, and armed conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are on the back burner. The administration and Congress are targeting timely passage of a stimulus-spending package that may exceed a trillion dollars in new spending. The impacts to baking are direct and indirect mostly through credit stabilization necessary for many in our industry to finance purchases of capital equipment and bulk ingredients. Energy policy also is part of the stimulus, with several “green” measures that could free up fossil fuels for baking ovens and transportation. Tax breaks for new employment and capital machinery purchases will benefit baking, if they are included in the final package.
BM: What are some of the biggest challenges the baking industry will face in the coming year?
NP: Managing costs of health care, energy, ingredients, wages and workforce stability. One advantage to the present national rate of unemployment is the workforce stability a company enjoys with reduced turnover.
BM: The FDA will reportedly increase its oversight of food safety and nutrition. What impact might this have on the baking industry?
NP: A few bad actors, one in particular (peanuts), are the driving force in the latest calls for increased FDA powers for mandatory recall authority. Many in Congress, more specifically Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the powerful Appropriations Subcommittee chairperson with jurisdiction over FDA, are calling for a single food agency to handle duties mostly split between FDA and the Department of Agriculture. The possibility of user fees and fees for the privilege of regulation are very likely to fund the activities of the new agency. IBA supported the idea of a single food agency for years, if and only if we see National Uniformity in labeling regulations, instead of the patchwork of requirements several states have that, in some cases, are not redundant and in fact work at cross purposes. Two examples of state labeling working against each other are recycling emblems and kosher certification. The Obama administration has sounded out in favor of a single food agency without necessarily including National Uniformity.
BM: How might the government's labor policies affect the baking industry?
NP: The Obama administration's position on the plethora of labor issues already manifested itself with passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which eliminates the statute of limitations on unfair labor practices. A few stalwart senators are all that prevents Card Check legislation that would take away secret ballot votes on union organization. The Obama administration also called for health care for all Americans, which someone has to pay for, most likely businesses. The marriage of a Democratic president and Congress will likely mean considerable action on the labor agenda, undermining collective bargaining with federal mandates of new benefits, including, but not limited to, paid leave for health emergencies, school events and to care for family members. We must work to support the presence of at least 40 pro-business senators to stop the tide of the administration's labor agenda.