SFA Outlines Key Summit Issues

In addition to the concerns surrounding the high cost of commodities and new food safety legislation, Snack Food Association members attending the Day in D.C. Spring Summit will discuss several other important issues with their Congressional representatives.
Following a briefing by SFA staff and public affairs advisor Michael Torrey, summit attendees will meet with members of the House and Senate and their staff members seeking support on these issues:
Preserve Food Stamp Choices
At press time, negotiations continued in Congress over a new Farm Bill, the legislation that authorizes the Food Stamp Program.
The SFA has successfully led an effort to prevent language being included in the bill that would limit food stamp purchases of various foods by Food Stamp recipients.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and other nutrition-related organizations, including the American Dietetic Association, have issued statements and documents supporting the preservation of choice in the program. The SFA will continue to oppose any revision that would limit choice for Food Stamp participants.
Childhood Nutrition
The SFA will emphasize the important strides the industry has made to improve the nutrition of snacks in schools as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act in 2009.
Last March, Sen. Tom Harkin (D.-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2007, which would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to redefine “Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value,” change their name to “Foods of Poor Nutritional Value” and revise the criteria used by the USDA to determine which foods fall under that classification.
The SFA and other organizations urged Harkin to postpone action on his proposal until the Child Nutrition Act is reauthorized in 2009. By then, more will be known about the impact of nutrition in schools on childhood obesity; the results of voluntary restrictions of fat, sugar and sodium in the SFA-supported Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s program also will be available.
Exempt Snack Peanuts from COOL
The SFA will urge Congress to recognize snack peanuts as processed foods, thus exempting them from Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements.
The SFA believes that snack peanuts should be exempt from COOL requirements because they are, in fact, processed due to the role of shelling and roasting in their production. However, the USDA’s guidelines contend that shelling, roasting, salting, and flavoring of peanuts does not exclude them from the law.
The SFA believes that the USDA’s interpretation of the provision and its guidelines run contrary to the federal definition of what constitutes a processed food and will continue to oppose this provision.
Fair Labor Standards Act
The SFA will press its case to restore the overtime exemption for route drivers operating vehicles under 10,001 lbs.
Because statutory reinstatement is considered unlikely in the current political environment, coalition efforts are focused on creating a provision in law protecting companies from litigation from August 2005, when the exemption was inadvertently repealed.
The SFA also is seeking a time period for companies to change their business models and payroll systems without being subjected to Department of Labor penalties. Despite opposition from organized labor, the SFA has generated support from key members of Congress, including Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and House Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D.-Minn.)
Driver Hours of Service
The SFA recently submitted comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) supporting its implementation of a final rule granting an extra hour of consecutive driving time for commercial drivers and the 34-hour “restart” provision, which permits calculation of weekly driver on-duty time limits after at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.
The SFA’s comments are intended to support FMCSA’s action, which has been challenged in court, and avoid delivery disruptions that would occur from an abrupt change in the rules. The SFA believes the 34-hour restart provision is needed to offer operational flexibility, and that neither provision, in effect since 2003, have compromised safety.
Sugar Policy
The SFA believes the U.S. sugar program represents a flawed policy that increases the cost of using sugar by limiting imports through strict quotas, imposing marketing allotments and providing price supports. The SFA supports reform of current sugar policy to make it more market-oriented and transparent.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been urged by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the American Medical Association (AMA) to revoke sodium’s status as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
The SFA opposes any effort to revoke the GRAS status of sodium in processed food and believes the appropriate forum to consider nutrient guidelines for sodium is through the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which will be revised in 2010.
Editor’s Note: For more information about these issues, visit www.SFA.org