The highly heralded 112th Congress has been sworn in and is getting right to work. With almost 100 new Representatives and over a dozen new Senators now in Washington, ABA is working hard to introduce itself and the baking industry to the new Congress. The new members of Congress include, among the usual group of attorneys and business people, a varied set of individuals such as veterans, medical doctors, car dealers, funeral directors, a former FBI agent, a female cattle rancher, a seventh generation cotton farmer, a former NFL lineman, a former world lumberjack champion (and reality TV star) and a commercial airline pilot. Besides representing an astonishing array of careers, this eclectic class of Republican freshmen also is the most diverse, with five new Latino members, two African-Americans and seven women represented.
Lest one think that because there are more business-friendly policy makers in Washington the need to actively engage in the policymaking process is diminished, I will quash that theory now. As U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue recently said, “If you are the first in the door you set the agenda, otherwise you are playing catch up.” We are working hard to be first through the door on issues of importance to the industry. While some of the more onerous initiatives–card check, cap and trade and independent contractor reform–are on the back burner, there is no lack of potentially costly agenda items for ABA.
Commodity volatility is at the front of the ABA’s mind. January opened with this very troubling report from Bloomberg News:
“Wheat futures for March delivery rose 23 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $8.1725 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. Earlier, the price touched $8.25, the highest for a mostactive contract since Aug. 6. The commodity climbed 47 percent last year, the first gain since 2007.”
ABA is aggressively seeking relief from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from the undue influence of index fund speculation in the wheat futures markets. Similarly, ABA is continuing its work on the dietary guidelines and the administration’s childhood obesity initiatives to ensure that grain-based foods remain the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.
Additionally, ABA is fielding a number of calls from bakers regarding complex and potentially costly enforcement of regulations. Specifically, OSHA’s misapplication of its new explosive-dust guidance to bakeries is not only causing serious concerns, but it could lead to extremely costly and unnecessary engineering controls. One Midwestern state’s environmental protection agency also is examining the possibility of requiring emissions containment of bakery proofers. The costs could exceed $1 million per bakery– an enormous impact to bakers’ bottom lines.
The ABA’s executive committee and policy committee chairs are planning strategies and setting priorities for the 112th Congress. The chairs are sharing the recommendations developed by the baking industry experts–your executives. All ABA member companies need to be engaged in this vitally important effort throughout the year so that ABA will be the “first in the door.”