The 2020 election is over, but efforts to understand the impacts are just beginning.
This most unusual of elections—conducted during a pandemic—has shifted the dynamics across multiple levels of government. The baking industry will need to stay engaged to carefully plan its future moves.
The American Bakers Association (ABA), Washington, D.C., is anticipating significant post-election imperatives for the baking sector. ABA notes that the baking industry—and the food industry overall—will have to communicate needs and educate new government office-holders about the proactive roles of companies and employees in keeping the food supply safe during the pandemic.
“We’re going to have to do a lot of education and reeducation with the new folks coming in,” says Robb MacKie, president and CEO, ABA. “We’ll need to redouble our efforts.”
Essential worker status. A top ABA priority with the new Biden administration will be to maintain the essential workforce status of the industry—part of the food and agriculture critical infrastructure designation put in place by the Trump administration early in the pandemic at the urging of ABA and other food industry associations. This designation has enabled the industries to remain operational in the face of pandemic challenges.
“We’ve already started to communicate the importance to the Biden transition team,” says MacKie. “We need to maintain that infrastructure during the transition period and through the winter. It’s important to protect those essential workers in our industry so that our members can continue to feed the country.”
Regulatory prospects. ABA executives are concerned about the potential for reversals in regulatory relief granted under the Trump administration. This kind of development could bring back the more-restrictive environment seen under the Obama administration.
Lee Sanders, senior vice president, government relations and public affairs, ABA, cites some of the possible regulatory scenarios on the radar of ABA executives:
Higher priority for food nutrition policies such as levels of sodium and added sugars in food
Potential focus on revenue-generating FDA user fees, including those levied on production facilities under FSMA
Increased focus on environmental impacts of food production and processing
A stepped-up review of chemicals in food
Senate outcomes. The national election may be over, but there are still important outcomes awaited on the Senate side. Georgia’s two incumbent senators—both Republicans—will face runoffs with their Democratic challengers on January 5. The results are important in determining the Senate leadership.
If Republicans hold at least one of those two seats, Biden would be the first Democratic president in more than 100 years to begin his term without a Democratic-controlled Senate. That dynamic would surely influence the new administration’s ability to press its agenda with Congress.
State-level focus. Despite all the emphasis on the national picture, the industry needs to stay focused on the state level as well, says Kelly Knowles, vice president, political and state affairs, ABA.
States may implement revenue-raising tools in the face of COVID-19-related financial challenges, explains Knowles. “ABA’s State Affairs Working Group will be setting planning priorities for 2021, and we are anticipating potential revenue-raising tools states may implement,” she says. “I think we’re going to see a lot of restrictive packaging measures introduced in the states early next year, potentially with some kind of per-pack tax on manufacturers.”
Industry engagement will shape future. ABA notes the food industry’s governmental efforts are supported by a robust collaboration framework. ABA takes a leadership role in the Food & Beverage Issue Alliance (FBIA), a coalition comprised of about 60 trade organizations. “I think it’s our job to make sure the partnership efforts and momentum keep moving forward,” Sanders says.
“We’re going to rely on our ABA members to help us push out the messages,” says MacKie, “and to give us the data and information we need to be effective and to paint a picture of the impact of government regulations on our sector.”