Meeting Challenges, Issues Head-On
Nicholas A. Pyle
PresidentIndependent Bakers Association
It’s not easy to put a happy face on events in Washington these days. Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico washed the pro business agenda for repeal of the Estate Tax and Social Security reform away. And as sugar quotes hover around 60 cents per pound, one is taken back to 1972, when restaurants removed sugar from the tables and provided it only as requested. Meanwhile, natural gas prices continue their spike upward. However, the silver lining comes in the attention to energy supplies and the recognition that only long-term solutions to bolster domestic reserves, such as more offshore drilling advocated by the Independent Bakers Association at the June meeting, can be effective.
On the regulatory front, we continue to work with Congress and the Administration on Hours of Service rulemaking, now subject to litigation by the unions and advocacy groups. IBA is buoyed in its long-term efforts to promote grains in the Food Guide Pyramid with the recent publication of MyPyramid for Kids, which calls whole-grain foods, including bread, the No. 1 component to a healthy diet. Our persistent efforts over the years asserting the health benefits of whole grains secures our position, albeit shared with others, at the base of the pyramid. At IBA we also are pleased that the opening up of serving size debates has not rekindled the one-slice, two-slice battles of the past.
Recently, our efforts with the Administration, Secretary of Agriculture and Congress to resolve the sugar supply crisis resulted in success, as additional foreign sugar was allowed into the United States — although at 14 cents, it’s no bargain. Our key focus with the Administration remains on getting more bulk sugar — since one rail car equals five trucks and eliminates labor-intensive bags — into the U.S. The actions taken in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are a good step, but Hurricane Rita actually disrupted more sugar cane in the fields, and we await further news at this writing.
Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, IBA contacted every bakery and allied trade, both members and non-members, requesting financial support to set up a fund to assist bakery employees impacted by the storm. We are aware of many employees in two members’ plants in New Orleans who lost everything in the storm and subsequent flooding. There are many others in our industry whose employees lost everything and whose plants and distribution facilities were impacted by the storm. We will continue to collect for the employee fund through IBA’s November meeting in Dallas.
On a more immediate front, we look forward to rulemaking by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on how it will define whole-grain breads for the 8 million Americans served by the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program. We anticipate preliminary rulemaking in January with a concern that the agency may use the “excellent” descriptor based on 51% whole grain as the threshold requirement for breads to be included for WIC. This type of rulemaking, in fact, may not allow us to make a consumer-palatable product, and we will continue to voice these concerns.
Industry meetings are an important part of IBA, and this fall we will gather Saturday, Nov. 12, as an adjunct to the Tortilla Industry Association’s Fall Trade show.
Congressman Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), the powerful House Agriculture Appropriations Sub-Committee chairman, will speak followed by the association business meeting. Our winter meeting is Feb. 19-22 at the popular Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida. There has never been a registration fee to attend an IBA meeting and all in the industry are invited to participate.
IBA started in 1968 as the voice for the independent, mostly family-owned regional bakeries in the United States. Since then, we have grown to an international association of over 400 bakers and allied trades. We take on the tough issues of the day facing the industry by leveraging members’ Congressional representation to impact policy and the regulatory agencies of the Federal government. Despite industry consolidation our membership continues to grow. Consider IBA membership today and be effective.
For more information on the IBA, visit www.mindspring.com/~independentbaker/ or call 1-202-333-8190.