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October 23, 2019  FDA Announces Six-Months of "Enforcement Discretion" for NFP Final Rule

Today, representatives from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) alerted IBA and other food advocacy groups that it will implement a six-month period of enforcement discretion as it reviews compliance with the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) final rule.  FDA's announcement comes in response to much stakeholder outreach, including a September letter from the Food & Beverage Issue Alliance, regarding the January 1, 2020 deadline.


In the letter, IBA and other FBIA members requested an enforcement discretion period so that manufacturers could finish using the last of their existing packaging in the few months after the compliance deadline.  The letter also cited the notable delay of several final guidance documents necessary to comply with the rule. 

FDA's NFP Industry Resources webpage now includes the following: 

I understand that FDA has received multiple requests from manufacturers to provide additional time to comply with the new requirements.  Do I still have to meet the January 1, 2020, compliance date?
The FDA has heard from several manufacturers and groups that more time may be needed to meet all of the requirements. Therefore, during the first 6 months following the January 1, 2020, compliance date, FDA plans to work cooperatively with manufacturers to meet the new Nutrition Facts label requirements and will not focus on enforcement actions regarding these requirements during that time.

 

 

August 5, 2019 IBA Supports Modern Worker Empowerment Act

The Independent Bakers Association applauds Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) and Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN) for their leadership in introducing the Modern Worker Empowerment Act, HR 4069, in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The bill will unify the standard for what constitutes an independent contract under federal law, by aligning an outlier in the Fair Labor Standards Act with the legal standard used under nearly all other federal statutes and at common law.  

As members of the House Education & Labor Committee, the cosponsors of the Modern Worker Empowerment Act focus on the future of work in this country, which hinges on freedom and flexibility.  The bill serves as a practical alternative to the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, HR 2474, introduced by Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) in May.  The PRO Act is widely viewed as a "wish list" for union leaders and aims to preserve only the rights of certain workers to accomplish certain goals.  Among its provisions is a change to the existing independent contractor standard under the National Labor Relations Act, creating more confusion and less consistency across federal law.  

IBA and its allies have been outspoken about the potential negative effects the PRO Act will have on many businesses, including independent bakeries and allied trades.  We will continue to promote the Modern Worker Empowerment Act as an important step in streamlining federal regulations so IBA members across the nation can thrive.  

 

July 30, 2019  IBA Homes in on Senate Companion to House Pension Bill

In the latest attempt to address the multiemployer pension crisis, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) along with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), reintroducing the partisan Butch Lewis Act on July 24, the same day the House voted along party lines to pass an identical bill.  Senator Brown introduced the bill for the third consecutive congressional session, over the objections of some stakeholders and many Republican leaders in the Senate.  

The bill, named after a long-time leader of the Evandale, Ohio Teamsters, injects funds into the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to allow for direct loans to failing multiemployer plans--as many as 25 plans are expected to be upside-down by 2025.  Because the bill makes minimal cuts to retiree benefits and imposes few fees on plans that obtain the loans, it is widely viewed as a government bailout for the $54 billion dollar crisis.

IBA Chairman Dan Mulloy of 151 Foods in Bellmawr, New Jersey views House passage of the Butch Lewis Act last week as an important step to address a critical issue for the baking industry.  "The New York Teamsters 707 bankruptcy last year was a wake-up call for the entire industry.  The clock is ticking for many more of these plans."  Mulloy said.

The Senate bill has little chance of passing the full chamber as written, but leaves room for negotiation among key lawmakers.  Last week, former House Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of a new coalition of business groups to help push the Senate toward a compromise.  If passed, a bipartisan bill from the upper chamber would eclipse the House bill in conference.  IBA will join the U.S. Chamber, UPS and others to help ensure comprehensive legislation reaches the president's desk this congressional session.  ​

May 21, 2019  IBA Submits Comment on Proposed "Overtime Rule"

The Independent Bakers Association submitted public comment today to the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage & Hour Division (WHD) on its proposed "Overtime Rule." 

The proposed rule updates the annual salary at which executive, administrative and professional workers are exempt from overtime eligibility.  WHD proposes to increase the salary threshold to $35,308 annually.  Though higher than the current threshold of $23,660, the new proposal is well below the $47,476 threshold established by the Obama administration in 2016 and struck down by a federal court in 2017.  During the last rulemaking, IBA submitted comment against the drastic hike in the salary threshold, citing the serious new administrative burden on employers.

In its comment, IBA offers support for WHD's decision to update the threshold and its methodology.  IBA also recommends against WHD's proposal to impose a four-year term between updates to the salary threshold.  IBA recommends that any rulemaking to update the threshold should be at the direction of the Secretary of Labor.  

IBA Members: read the full comment letter here.

 

 

April 19, 2019  IBA Names 2019 Legislative Service Award Recipients

Read the full Press Release here

 

 

March 11, 2019  Dept. of Labor Releases New Proposed "Overtime Rule" for Public Comment

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed expanding overtime eligibility to more than one million workers, revising an Obama-era rule blocked by a federal judge in 2016.  

Under the proposed rule, the salary threshold under which workers in "executive, administrative and professional" roles are eligible for overtime pay would rise to $35,308.  Though higher than the current threshold of $23,660, the threshold DOL proposed today is well below the $47,476 threshold from the 2016 rule. 

Also unlike the 2016 rule, which set a formula for the overtime threshold to rise automatically with inflation, the new rule would merely direct DOL to update the threshold at its discretion every four years, rather than "periodically," as currently stated in the regulatory framework. 

During the last rulemaking, IBA submitted comment against the drastic hike in the salary threshold, as well as the auto-update proposal--citing the serious administrative burden on employers.  IBA will plan to submit comment on the current proposal within the 60-day comment period.  Please submit any feedback or questions to Andrea Hart.  
 

February 1, 2019  IBA Renews Call for USDA to Rescind or Revise Grain-Based Dessert Ban in CACFP

the Independent Bakers Association delivered a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) renewing calls for the agency to re-examine a burdensome portion of its Child & Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP) meal pattern update.  The 2017 rule banned reimbursement under the program for any grain-based desserts, regardless of whether those foods were rich in whole grains, met the nutrient content requirements for their category or were eligible for reimbursement under other school feeding programs. 

IBA and a FNS staff met in the summer of 2017 to discuss the reimbursement ban and how it burdens CACFP administrators and wholesale bakers who supply products to the program.  The discussion ended with FNS identifying the first year of the rule's implementation as a "transition period," where the agency would accept feedback from program administrators and other stakeholders.  The transition year ended in October 2018.  

In the letter, IBA urges FNS to use the feedback and other relevant input to launch an in-depth review of the grain-based dessert reimbursement ban, with the goal of scaling back the rule and aligning it with meal patterns used by other child nutrition programs.  IBA requests an in-person meeting with FNS and stakeholders this spring.  Read the full letter here.  

 

 

December 19, 2018  IBA Submits Comment in Support of Including Sugar in US-EU Trade Agreement

The Independent Bakers Association (IBA) submitted comment yesterday to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC or the Commission), expressing support for a prospective trade deal with the European Union that would increase access to competitively-priced bakery ingredients.
 
The USITC opened an investigation into economic impacts of a potential agreement in November.  Though the EU has yet to agree to include agricultural commodities in the agreement, most American agricultural representatives expressed interest in the deal.  One exception is the American Sugar Alliance, which testified before the Commission this week that a trade agreement would harm their industry. 
 
In its comment, IBA encouraged the Commission to look beyond the interests of the American sugar industry, which is well-protected by a series of rigid domestic subsidies.  IBA urged the Commission to consider the benefits a market-based trade agreement would bring to American food manufacturers in the baking industry and beyond, as well as consumers, who bear much of the inflated cost for domestic sugar.

Read the full comment here.

 

November 5, 2018  IBA Submits Letter to USDA & FDA Urging Harmonization of Grace Periods​

The Independent Bakers Association submitted a letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) addressing the need for the agencies to harmonize "grace periods" for compliance enforcement under their respective new food labeling rules.  

The letter was sent to FDA's Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition, which published the Nutrition Facts update rule in 2016, and USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, which is expected to finalize the Bioengineered Food Disclosure rule later this year.  Copies were sent to the FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.  

The agencies and food industry stakeholders worked together in recent months to harmonize the compliance deadlines for both rules at January 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021 for manufacturers with less than $10 million in food sales.  Though FDA finalized guidance on Friday regarding the compliance timeline for the Nutrition Facts rule, the guidance provides only that after the compliance date, manufacturers have the option to apply a sticker bearing the new Nutrition Facts standard over existing labels. 

In the letter, IBA advised that the sticker option is not feasible for the majority of IBA members.  Instead, IBA urged FDA to consider collaborating further with USDA to solidify compliance harmonization by providing for a "grace period" as outlined in the BE Food Disclosure proposed rule.  Similar grace periods for the two rules would ensure smaller IBA members could avoid costly redundant labeling by using existing label inventories during the grace period until they are able to come into compliance with both rules.  

 

October 2, 2018  President Trump signs US-Mexico-Canada Agreement

Yesterday, President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto agreed to a free-trade pact after more than 13 months of tense negotiations.  The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or "USMCA" as deemed by President Trump, updates a litany of trade programs, many of which impact the entire food-supply chain.

For example, USMCA will open up some of Canada's dairy market to US farmers.  The issue was a big sticking point between the two negotiating teams.  Under the original NAFTA, Canada limited how much milk, cheese and other dairy products could come in from the United States.

Under the updated agreement, Canada will set new quotas for the United States.  It will increase market access for US dairy, poultry and eggs.  In return, the United States will allow more Canadian dairy, peanuts and a limited amount of sugar to cross the border, according to a negotiation document from US Trade Representative's Office.  Under NAFTA, Canada's market access was limited to 0.1% of the US sugar market.

USMCA secured other major trade deals, ranging from car manufacturing to intellectual property protections for biotechnology, financial services and online software.  

Procedurally, the September 30 completion of the agreement was driven by the Trump administration's desire to sign the deal with Mexico before current Mexican President Peña Nieto's last full day in office on November 30.

The administration had to post the draft text on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative's website by Sunday night, thereby meeting the requirement that it be published 60 days in advance of the deal being signed.

President Trump will sign the agreement in late November with Peña Nieto and Trudeau, though Congress is not expected to vote on the pact until next year.  This is partly because of a requirement for the U.S. International Trade Commission to do an economic analysis of the agreement, which could take more than three months to complete.

 

July 31, 2018  California's Prop. 65: What IBA Members Need to Know

Based on several inquiries from IBA member-companies regarding recent activity under California's Prop. 65, IBA is providing a brief snapshot of the state of Prop. 65 regulation and litigation.  IBA members may access the .pdf document here.  

 

July 5, 2018  IBA Submits Comment on BE Food Disclosure Rule

Today, IBA submitted comment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which was tasked with promulgating a regulatory framework for the National Bioengineered (BE) Food Disclosure Standard.  In 2016, Congress enacted the Standard and set a legislative deadline of July 26, 2018 for publication of the final rule. 

Access IBA's comment on here.  In its comment, IBA makes recommendations about the scope and mechanics of the rule.  We also highlight three practical concerns that are not addressed in the underlying legislation: 1) the food industry's interest in having full and clear guidance documents promptly after the rule is finalized; 2) the threat of unfounded litigation by "patent trolls" targeting companies that comply using the "digital link" disclosure option; and 3) the need for a nationwide consumer-education campaign on BE foods and the new regulatory framework.  

Now that the public comment period is over, AMS must sort through more than 14,000 comments from interest groups, companies and individuals.  There is consensus across the food industry that AMS will not meet its deadline, though neither the agency nor Congress has released a contingency plan.  If AMS misses its deadline without an accommodation by Congress, many in Washington anticipate anti-GMO groups and consumer organizations will file suit against the agency.  

Thanks to all the IBA members who provided feedback for this comment.  We will continue to update members on the timeline for the regulatory process.  

 

June 18, 2018  Review "Dietary Fiber" Guidance for the Nutrition & Supplemental Facts Rule

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) published a guidance document last week containing additions to the definition of "dietary fiber" within the Nutrition & Supplemental Facts final rule.  Based on FDA's review of some of the nearly two-dozen citizen petitions submitted, the agency added eight types of isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates to the category of "dietary fiber."  They are: mixed plant cell wall fibers; arabinoxylan; alginate; inulin and inulintype fructans; high amylose starch (resistant starch 2); galactooligosaccharide; polydextrose; and resistant maltodextrin/dextrin.

FDA states it is still reviewing several of the citizen petitions.  

FDA also announced it will exercise enforcement discretion relative to the declaration of the substances listed in the guidance.  The agency recently finalized its new compliance deadline of January 1, 2020 (January 1, 2021 for businesses with less than $10M annual food sales).  Read the full guidance document here.

May 18, 2018 Partisanship Sinks the Farm Bill

The House Freedom Caucus withheld votes in favor of final passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, leading to its defeat, 198-213.  The vote was expected to run on party lines because of its expansion of work requirements for recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.  218 "yes" votes were needed to pass the bill.

The House Freedom Caucus, led by Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC), attempted to leverage the tight vote margin to secure a floor vote for a controversial immigration bill ahead of the farm bill vote.  Republican leadership did not acquiesce those demands, and Freedom Caucus members, in turn, did not vote in favor of the farm bill.  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) immediately moved for a reconsideration of the final vote, though procedure does not require a specific timeframe for the second vote.

This temporary pause in action on the House's farm bill marks a new opportunity for the 137 House members who voted in favor of common-sense modernization of the US sugar program through an amendment offered by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC).  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) worked at the last minute to whip votes away from the otherwise highly-supported amendment when it was debated last night. 

Now, as House leaders attempt to compromise, IBA and others in the Alliance for Fair Sugar Policy will encourage lawmakers to view sugar reform as a way to draw consensus and bipartisanship within the farm bill.

 

 

April 18, 2018  IBA Announces its 2018 Legislative Service Award Recipients

The Independent Bakers Association is pleased to announce it will award its 2018 Horst G. Denk Legislative Service Award to The Honorable Virginia A. Foxx (R-NC) and The Honorable Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), two members of the U.S. House of Representatives.  These members of Congress have exemplified leadership and dedication to family-owned businesses in the food-manufacturing industry through their sponsorship of The Sugar Policy Modernization Act and their promotion of science-based nutrition policy. 

The award is named for Horst G. Denk, owner of Denk Baking in Brooklyn, New York.  Throughout his career, Horst was politically active and served as IBA’s Executive Committee Chairman.  The award is given annually to one democratic and one republican congressional legislator.  Past recipients include Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), then-Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and then-Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

IBA will host a congressional reception on Wednesday, June 13th in the Capitol Visitor Center to present the awards.  At the reception, IBA members and guests attending the 44th Annual Convention will have the unique opportunity to meet and mingle with award recipients and other members of Congress. 

April 6, 2018  IBA Ramps Up Support for Employee Rights Act

​​After a series of inconsistent decisions from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding the web of regulations for employers, employees and unions, IBA is ramping up support for a legislative solution. 

Last month, NLRB again extended the deadline for public comment on whether it should revisit the regulatory framework for union elections.  The proposed changes would undo a 2014 rule that speeds up potential union organizing by postponing employer litigation until after a union election.  The rule also ended a 25-day waiting period between ordering an election and having it take place. Pro-business advocates assert the rule permits so-called “ambush” elections in workplaces.  The new comment deadline is April 18th. 

Though the Republican-led Congress made multiple attempts to address this and other regulatory contradictions trickling out of NLRB in its past two legislative sessions, a major union-related bill has yet to be enacted.  Instead, regulated industries can expect the Board to continue flipping on its own decisions as its politically-appointed members conclude their staggered five-year terms.

The latest bill, the Employee Rights Act (ERA), provides a comprehensive update to the Nation Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  Read highlights of the bill here.  The ERA was introduced in November, and boasts more than 150 cosponsors in the House and 30 in the Senate (full list here).  IBA met with staff of House sponsor Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN) yesterday, who introduced the legislation as an empowerment tool for employees while they consider unionizing or terminating their union.  We anticipate House Education & Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will schedule the bill for consideration later this spring.  Ahead of that meeting, IBA invites members to engage on this issue.  To get involved in IBA’s efforts, contact Andrea Hart at andrea@ibabaker.com.

​March 5, 2018  Take-Aways from FDA's New Guidance on NFP

​​Last week,  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released several guidance documents related to the Nutrition Facts label final rule, including a final guidance explaining how FDA evaluates the scientific evidence supporting citizen petitions to add certain isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates to the regulatory definition of dietary fiber.  More details are below.

Dietary Fiber:
FDA released an update to its review policy for the citizen petitions proposing additional isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates to be labeled as "dietary fiber" under the new Nutrition Facts label.  Though FDA is not changing the standard for what counts as "dietary fiber," it is adjusting the weight given the various types of scientific evidence for meeting that standard.  FDA also sent a general response to all companies and organizations that submitted petitions, alerting them of this update and inviting any new evidence to be submitted before FDA makes its final determination on the dozens of petitions. 
FDA also updated its Question & Answer webpage regarding dietary fiber.  In the last section, FDA states that if the compliance deadline passes before the agency has finalized its response to a petition for a certain ingredient, no company should not label that ingredient as dietary fiber.  The proposed new deadline is January 2020.  

Small Entity Compliance:
Pursuant to the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Act, FDA released a Compliance Guide for Small Entities.  The Guide is designed to put the regulatory framework in "plain language" for small businesses.  It may also be a good resource for anyone subject to the regulation.  

Added Sugar from Honey, Maple Syrup and Certain Cranberry Products:
This draft guidance is related to the labeling of sugar when the product is wholly made of honey, maple syrup or cranberry products, versus when the product contains those ingredients as one of many.  FDA has yet to finalize its main guidance document on the "added sugar" delineation.  

Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACC) Categories:
This final guidance provides examples of products within each RACC category.  The list of examples is not all-inclusive and should serve as a guide only.  Bakery products for the general population (age 4 and older) begins on page 8 of the guidance.  

 

​December 20, 2017  Congress Passes Tax Reform Legislation

​​Republicans in the House gave final approval this afternoon to the biggest changes to the tax code in decades, sending the package to President Donald Trump and completing their first big legislative achievement since taking across-the-board control of the government this year.

In a 224-201 vote, the House passed the bill for the second time in two days on Wednesday, after three provisions had to be stripped out because they ran afoul of Senate budget rules.  The Senate approved the bill around 1 am Wednesday morning.

No Democrats in either chamber voted for the bill, a bet that its unpopularity in polls will stick and hurt the GOP in next fall’s midterms.

Republicans foresee that the legislation’s popularity will rise as taxpayers see its benefits, and only 12 House Republicans voted against the bill.  Most of them were from New York, New Jersey and California districts that would be hit by new limits on deductions for state, local and property taxes.  In the Senate, every Republican present backed the bill.

Republican lawmakers and the president are slated to celebrate the bill’s passage at an event at the White House Wednesday afternoon, but the president won’t sign the measure until a later date.

The bill is a major accomplishment for Republicans that reflects a number of the party’s priorities. In addition to cutting taxes, the bill also effectively repeals ObamaCare’s individual mandate requiring people to buy health insurance and allows for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  President Trump hailed those achievements — and in the case of ObamaCare, sought to make the case that it represented true repeal of the law.

Repeal of the mandate actually will leave the health exchanges, subsidies and many other aspects of former President Obama’s signature legislation in place.  Experts believe that the mandate’s repeal could lead to a spike in premiums.

After failing earlier in the year to fully repeal and replace ObamaCare, Republicans were eager to enact a significant piece of legislation ahead of the midterm elections. Trump called for tax cuts on the campaign trail, and many GOP lawmakers, such as Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), have long sought to rewrite the tax code.

The bill cuts tax rates for individuals and corporations and also creates a new deduction for income of pass-through businesses taxed through the individual code.  The top individual rate would go from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, while the corporate rate would drop from 35 percent to 21 percent.  The bill also all-but-eliminates the estate tax for all but the smallest number of people by doubling the amount of money exempt from the estate tax -- currently set at $5.49 million for individuals, and $10.98 million for married couples.  At today's levels, about 0.2% of all estates end up being subject to the estate tax.

The provisions for individuals and pass-throughs expire after 2025. In order for the Senate to use a process known as reconciliation and pass the bill with a simple-majority vote, the bill couldn’t add to the deficit after 10 years.  

Members of Congress now turn to appropriations concerns, as the federal government is currently only funded through Friday.  IBA and others in Washington expect a bipartisan vote for a Continuing Resolution to fund the government at current levels through mid-January.  Washington insiders also anticipate the Trump Administration's Infrastructure Package Framework to be released in the coming weeks.  

IBA invites members to contact our staff office with questions or input regarding the tax reform bill, infrastructure and other legislative priorities.  

06/28/2017  IBA Hosts its 2017 Memorial Internship

The Independent Bakers Association hosted Joe Rogers of Lookout Mountain, Georgia earlier this month as its 2017 Memorial Intern.  The annual Memorial Internship program commemorates the association’s founders and allows a young entrepreneur referred by an IBA member to shadow IBA staff for a week and attend the annual convention in Washington, DC.  Joe is the son of IBA Board member Pat Rogers of Ardent Mills-Cargill.  He a rising senior majoring in environmental engineering at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
 
Joe spent the week accompanying IBA staff to events with industry leaders and observing food lobbyists as they strategized for the rest of the legislative year.  He visited Capitol Hill to meet with his US Representative, Congressman Tom Graves of Georgia and attended a House Appropriations Committee hearing.  Joe also met with leaders of two advocacy and professional organizations for the engineering industry, and plans to use those contacts as he pursues an engineering internship with the Tennessee Valley Authority. 
 
During the IBA Annual Convention, Joe met his Chattanooga Representative, Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee and mingled with IBA members and their families.  He also gave a presentation to meeting attendees on his successful experience in Washington. 
 
IBA’s annual Memorial Internship program is made possible by the generous funding contributions made bi-annually from active members during the holiday season.  Please inform the IBA team if you have a recommendation for a future intern.