Sharing the Power of Association

Frank Rooney
Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association
Perhaps never before — at least not in the last 30 years or so — has our industry faced so many issues which threaten our core business: required labeling for trans fats and allergens; the “low-carb diet” fad; obesity and the lawsuits seeking to hold us liable for it; sale of food and beverages in schools; the new dietary guidelines; when health claims can be made for foods; sugar, peanut and other commodity subsidies; and bioterrorism.
On top of all these, we have a presidential election and a decision to make as to which candidate is better-qualified to lead the nation and which administration will be more favorably disposed, or at least less adversarial, toward our industry.
Obviously, no single association can deal with all these issues on its own, so B&CMA is a member of quite a few coalitions and alliances. As such, B&CMA has participated in the processes and contributed to the formulation of positions on behalf of its members.
For example, this past June, B&CMA worked closely with the National Food Processor Association and the Grocery Manufacturers Association to formulate a position on mandatory trans-fat acid labeling, pursuant to a Food & Drug Administration proposed rulemaking.
B&CMA’s position essentially endorsed NFPA’s and GMA’s stance. B&CMA also has been actively involved in a coalition addressing the allergen issue. Beyond these, B&CMA has participated in coalitions focusing on sales of foods in the schools, sugar and peanut programs, natural gas, and ergonomics. Of course, B&CMA could not engage in all these projects were it not for the support, expertise and contributions of its members.
If you were to read the column I wrote last year, you would see that it addresses the exact same issues. This demonstrates that we are dealing with long-term problems that will not be solved in one or two years.
Meanwhile, as time goes by, new concerns arise. For example, B&CMA has been working literally for decades to make “farm bills” with their subsidies for sugar, peanuts and other commodities, fairer and more realistic. It is only now — with the World Trade Organization’s finding that U.S. subsidies violate WTO rules — that “the tide may be turning” on this issue.
Similarly, the “obesity” threat is going to be with us for a long time and will only get worse. Recall that the “tobacco lawyers” spent decades suing tobacco companies and lost dozens and scores of cases in every court in the country until finally, in the last couple of years, they “hit the jackpot” and settled with the tobacco companies for hundreds of billions of dollars.
If you think that these lawyers will now retire and disappear with the millions of dollars they won in legal fees, you are mistaken. They will not retire; they will look for new “opportunities” and targets, and now the food industry is in their sights. Defending the industry is going to take many years and huge amounts of money, and the path will be fraught with real risks of failure and loss.
At the same time, B&CMA has been engaged in its own self-analysis. This process has led the association to a focus and concentration on providing training and education to its members and the entire industry. While not leaving the legislative work undone, B&CMA has decided that it is in education and training that it can have its greatest impact.
This commitment is exemplified by the new “Cookie and Cracker Manufacturing” correspondence course (now in its second edition), a self-study baking course designed to provide knowledge on the fundamentals of the cookie and cracker manufacturing process. This is the only course designed solely for the baking industry.
B&CMA’s commitment to education also is manifested in its Multimedia Training Program, a Windows-based, four-disc CD-ROM set that teaches (in English or Spanish) functionality of ingredients, mixing, forming and baking to hourly workers. Not to be overlooked are the annual technical conferences and annual meetings, with their breadth of topics and roster of expert speakers and presenters. You can find out more about all these B&CMA offerings and initiatives by visiting our website at
All of the above adds up to a tremendous workload and calls for re-doubled efforts from all the members of the industry. A volunteer membership organization, such as B&CMA, is totally dependent on its members and volunteers for everything it does. We well-recognize the fatigue and financial strain that comes from belonging to so many trade and professional associations and societies.
However, just as workers learned decades ago the power of organization and forming unions, so must all those who make their living from our industry learn and practice the power of association.