NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
April 15, 2002
A group of more than twenty leaders from NMA and the Southwest Meat Association (SMA) visited Washington, DC April 9-11. They arrived during the heat of Farm Bill debates on the hill the outcome of which will affect the industry in its entirety. In fact, Farm bill conferees were holding marathon meetings every day last week and negotiations will resume tomorrow. Even with the debate ongoing, nobody with whom the NMA/SMA group met was able to say with any assurance what the final result might be on issues critical to the industry. In fact, it nobody knows if there will even be a bill this month.
On the evening of Tuesday, April 9, Brent Baglien, vice president of Government Affairs for NMA member ConAgra, met with the group. Baglien was able to paint the Washington picture as it stands and how it has changed with the new administration. “George Bush coming in was a great thing,” opined Baglien. Nevertheless, there are a host of issues steamrolling down upon the meat industry, he said. He listed a few, including the threat of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), the possibility of a single food agency and trade issues. “We’ve got to look ahead and get in front of these issues,” he said.
The next morning NMA met with hill staffers Danny Spellacy, who is with Senator Luger’s (R-IN) staff, and Jim Richards from Congressman Henry Bonilla’s (R-TX) office. Both described for attendees the harrowing process staff has had preparing the Farm Bill for the current committee debate. “Staffers had to whittle down to 150 issues over 6 weeks, but now we’re at loggerheads over those 150,” said Spellacy. It is not at all clear whether or not a compromise is reachable on many of the issues, he added. (Continued…)
NMA/SMA IN WASHINGTON (CONTINUED)
After breakfast on April 10, the NMA/SMA group met with Shawne Carter McGibbon, Director of Interagency Affairs, and Kevin Bromberg, Assistant Chief Counsel for Environmental Policy, in the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As the majority of the attendees represented small business companies, this meeting afforded an excellent opportunity to the group. There was a great deal of beneficial discussion of the EPA’s new effluent proposals (posted online at http://www.epa.gov/ost). Bromberg commented that the proposal was deeply flawed in several significant ways, not the least of which was source data, and proposed that effort be made to show the falsehoods attached to the effort. For companies with indirect discharge, i.e. attached to local sewage systems, there is simply “no rationale for a federal rule,” said Bromberg. He offered that the issue be taken up with the American Metropolitan Sewage Agency (AMSA).
Director of Interagency Affairs McGibbon suggested strongly that meat industry small businesses contact the SBA’s national ombudsman (OMB), who spoke at NMA’s convention in February. OMB wants to hear about the effects of the HACCP regulation and can advocate training for line inspection employees. What is needed is technical information. NMA and SMA expressed regrets for not have visited with McGibbon previously and resolved to work with the Office of Advocacy (http://www.sba.org/advo) in the future.
Next the group met for lunch with guest speaker Jarol Manheim (see “One in a Thousand” on page 3). After lunch, attendees went to visit the offices of their representatives in Congress.
Later, NMA hosted a lovely reception on the Hill that was attended by many of the Association’s friends in Washington, a bevy of Congressional staffers and Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Representative Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Representative William Jenkins (R-TN).
The group’s final day in Washington was spent at the USDA (see “NMA/SMA visit USDA” in Herd on the Hill page 1).
A group called mpXML is working to develop standards for use throughout the industry for a Business-to-Business data supply chain. A non-profit corporation, mpXML represents a broad cross-section of organizations and is being championed by USDA, Tyson, Wegmans Food Markets, Perdue Farms, Smithfield Foods and Daymon Associates. The programming standards will allow for a universal XML application to assist data-delivery in online business transactions for the entire industry.
As powerful as our political representation in Washington truly is, it is often swayed by the power of the press. Not only can press reports sway a national leader’s decisions, but they can win or lose votes for him. So, naturally, many of the people with whom NMA and SMA met in Washington offered analysis of and advice about the mass media. Jim Richards the staffer from Congressmen Bonilla’s office, warned that “you’ll never win the war of sound bites, focus on the war of science.” However, his advice was directly contradicted by Wednesday’s luncheon speaker, Jarol Manheim. Manheim, author of the celebrated book Death of a Thousand Cuts, warned that while fighting back directly might indeed be ill-advised – “you’ll be letting them set the agenda and you’ll be legitimizing their claims” – it is nevertheless critical to make more than a scientific response: “This is emotional warfare,” he said of campaigns such as PETA’s vegetarian activism, “you can’t fight it with rational arguments.”
Jarol Manheim is a Ph.D. who acts as Professor of Media and Public Affairs, and of Political Science, and was the founding Director of the School of Media & Public Affairs at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University. His research and teaching interests center on strategic political communication. Death of a Thousand Cuts describes what are called Corporate Campaigns, that is grass roots-style anti-corporate movements motivated by non-governmental organizations interested in pushing a particular political agenda and undermining an industry or picking it off one business at a time. He warned that they use regulation as a weapon and that legislation can easily be swept up on their media push. His talk rang true for the attendees, all of whom have watched with growing horror the current barrage of misinformation directed maliciously at the meat industry.
PBS’s Frontline Modern Meat, scheduled to air on Thursday evening, April 18, looks like one more effort to denigrate the hard work of hundreds of thousands of men and women. Livestock producers, line workers in meat packing and processing operations and the government employees who conduct inspection activities in plants, as well as plant owners, managers, and government managers, all have a vested interest in guaranteeing the safety and wholesomeness of the food they produce. As well as other consumers, they are assuring the health of themselves, their friends and their families. They have every right to be angry with so-called TV documentaries featuring the cleverly-edited rhetoric of high-profile critics. These tax-exempt malcontents, experts at delivering non-factual criticism in bite-sized portions, feed the need of television producers seeking an audience by fabricating a storyline for them. Sadly, people frightened by the reality of foodborne illness and the impossibility of easy solutions are all too eager to hear that the endurance of pathogens can be blamed on unchecked corporate greed.
The show will include denigrating comments by one of the individuals that supported USDA as an amicus in Supreme Beef Processors v. USDA. However, the show’s producers were unable, in their year-long preparation, to conduct an on-air interview with any of the plaintiff representatives. NMA’s correspondence with the show’s producer about this lopsided presentation is available on NMA’s website.
FSIS announced Friday that it was detaining an undetermined amount of uninspected pork products from Brazil. The Agency is working with the importer to recall the products, which were distributed to retail stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey. “These products could present a health hazard to consumers because they have not been inspected …” said acting FSIS Administrator Ron Hicks. No illnesses have been reported.
McDonald's today issued a 45-page document appealing to the social conscience of all its customers. The document reveals the positive aspects of its relationships with employees, suppliers, the environment and local communities in the 121 countries where it operates and is a detailed look at a 50-year history of social responsibility. As it has grown, McDonald's golden arches have come world-wide to symbolize not only America but, to some critics, corporate greed. “We understand that people have questions about the brand, and we have an obligation to talk about the business in a much broader way than just how much money we’re making,” Chief Executive Jack Greenberg told Reuters in an interview last week. “I think we recognize this obligation of being more open and more transparent about issues that are of increasing importance to our customers and to our own people.”
Respected investors in the world of ethical stock picking said McDonald's social record has historically tipped toward the positive and publicizing it could help offset some of the criticism. Amy Domini, president of Domini Social Investments, which manages $1.8 billion and holds about 386,000 McDonald's shares and is the largest fund that screens its holdings for social responsibility issues, told Reuters that McDonald's is “strong on diversity issues, community issues, employment of the disabled, women and minorities.”
The full McDonald's report is available at http://www.mcdonalds.com/corporate/social.
NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION
NMA - East: 1400 - 16th St. N.W., Suite 400, Washington D.C. 20036 Ph. (202) 667-2108
NMA - West: 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612 Ph. (510) 763-1533 Fax (510) 763-6186
Edited by Jeremy Russell
April 15, 2002
NMA/SMA VISIT USDA
On the morning of Thursday, April 11, NMA and SMA leaders met with Dr. Elsa Murano, Under Secretary for Food Safety, and Bill Hawks, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Later, the group met with the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
The meeting with the Under Secretary for Food Safety, included Deputy Under Secretary Dr. Merle Pierson and Acting Administrator Margaret Glavin. The main topic of conversation was the confusion that has resulted from an Agency in transition. “As difficult as it was, implementing HACCP was really the easy part,” commented Dr. Murano. “You were given a system to implement and you implemented it. The really difficult thing now is to look into the future and find a way to turn that into safer food.” NMA hopes that this will include a clarified chain-of-command so that plants know who at the Agency to turn to with complaints and calls for help. Pierson said he appreciated the input and admitted that they were still trying to “fit” the new positions, e.g. the Consumer Safety Officers, that have been introduced. Murano added that the group was not the first to raise such concerns. “At USDA,” she said, “we want all of our employees to be as knowledgeable as possible about food safety.”
Next, the group met with Bill Hawks, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Hawks, who oversees APHIS, informed the group that that very day an announcement was being made about the discovery of infectious prions in sheep previously confiscated by APHIS (see next page). “That shows the enforcement plan is working,” commented NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow.
Linda Swacina, Deputy Administrator for Staff Services, headed up the FSIS meeting on behalf of Margaret Glavin. The Agency informed the assembled that it would be issuing a policy statement that firmly defined the roles of the inspection force.
In the final meeting of the day, with AMS, NMA was given the school lunch buys final report for Purchases by Vendor. For a copy of this purchase report (through March 29), send a self-addressed, stamped (34˘) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West and be sure to include the newsletter date with your request. AMS also discussed improvements being made to the Angus certification programs, which have grown over-inclusive, and other audit and review programs. In fact, the group was introduced to the head of a new division with-in AMS, Audit Review and Compliance (ARC). As head of ARC, Jim Riva said he was working to bolster agency claims for value-added products. Under his supervision will be programs for the National Organic Program, any hormone-free or antibiotic-free products, and whatever Country-of-Origin labeling might yet be introduced by Congress in the pending Farm Bill.
At the end of the day, those who were able, dropped in on a meeting of FSIS’s District Managers (DMs). “It doesn’t matter how good we are,” commented Dr. Murano, when speaking of the District Manager sessions being held. “It matters how good they are.” NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow agreed and argued that therefore the DMs need the support necessary for making clear and active decisions as a key part of the line inspection system.
FDA PROPOSES TO STUDY CONSUMER HANDLING OF RTE PRODUCTS
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a Notice promising a study into consumer handling of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) foodstuffs. They are currently inviting comments on their proposal. It seems they are interested in finding a mechanism for determining ways to gather data regarding consumer refrigeration and handling practices. For a copy of the proposal and an Olsson, Frank & Weeda summary, send a self-addressed, stamped (34˘) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West and be sure to include the newsletter date with your request.
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will shortly publish its Lamb Promotion, Research, and Information Order as a Final Rule in the Federal Register. The Order will provide for an industry-funded promotion, research, and information program for lamb and lamb products including pelts, but excluding wool. This checkoff-like assessment program applies to all sales of sheep and lambs and provides for a .005 payment per pound when live lambs are sold. The first handler (primarily packers) will pay an additional assessment of 30 cents per head of lambs purchased for slaughter.
FSIS issued April 8 an Export Notice providing details of conditions that will be required to export poultry products to the Russian Federation when the current ban is lifted. Access the notice at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OFO/export/2002-15.htm.
EXPORT LIBRARY UPDATE
On April 9, country export requirements for Japan, Mexico, People's Republic of China, Canada, and Indonesia were updated in the Export Library on the FSIS website. The web site lists country requirements for exporting meat and poultry products, U.S. plants approved for export, FSIS Directives and Notices, Export Notices, Frequently Asked Questions, and other export related information. Access this information at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OFO/export/explib.htm.
USDA TO PROTEST PHILIPPINE MEAT STANDARDS
U.S Agriculture Attaché Michael Woolsey announced plans last week to file a protest with the World Trade Organization (WTO) if the Philippines does not withdraw new safety requirements on meat imports. The safety standards, which have not yet been implemented, pending formulation of rules, require a safety compliance certificate and a chain of custody checklist. “The new requirements will only disrupt shipments, cost a lot of money when [the Philippine Department of Agriculture] themselves confirmed that they are not aware of any meat safety concerns,” commented Woolsey. The U.S. exports about $30 million in meat and poultry products to the Philippines annually.
APHIS CONFIRMS TSE IN CONFISCATED SHEEP
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has exonerated its enforcement action taken last year to depopulate a sheep herd seized in Vermont. The sheep had been imported from Europe and it was feared that they might suffer from a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE). Last week, APHIS announced that in fact two of the sheep tested positive for a TSE. “As a result of our vigilance, none of these confiscated animals entered the animal or human food supply,” commented APHIS Administrator Bobby Acord.