From ABA President & CEO Robb MacKie:
Over the years, many ABA members have asked the critically important question, “Are ABA’s efforts making a difference in Washington and to my business?” I usually answer, “Yes, but the wheels of government move slowly… ABA needs to keep pushing its agenda… We are making progress…” Many ABA members understand and continue to respond to our calls to action, fund our political activities, etc. However, many members and a lot of non-members look or react skeptically to these answers.
Recent successes force even the most jaded skeptics to agree that progress is being made. One clear example is corn ethanol. Three years ago at the height of the commodity crisis, ABA faced a very skeptical Washington establishment when it called for an end to federal corn ethanol support. ABA’s consistent pressure, fueled by ABA members’ numerous meetings, e-mails and calls since the Band of Bakers March on Washington has dramatically changed the debate. Even long-standing ethanol proponent Al Gore is rethinking the issue. As bakers know all too well, when 40 percent of the domestic corn crop goes into fuel, the price of corn and other grains feel the impact.
Last month, the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed separate amendments to end government support for blending corn-based ethanol into gasoline. In the House, Representative Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) amendment to prohibit the government from funding ethanol-related infrastructure projects passed 283-128. The Senate also took a run at one of Washington’s sacred cows, passing Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) amendment to repeal ethanol tax credits 73-27. Due to procedural issues those exact amendments are unlikely to become law, however the strong votes are a clear signal that ethanol may soon join the free enterprise system.
More baking industry specific, ABA may have helped set a time record in resolving a policy issue. As I have highlighted previously, ABA has been leading Indiana bakers to hold off new emissions requirements for proof boxes. In eight months, ABA marshaled every baker in Indiana and several key equipment suppliers to show Indiana regulators why their controls were both unnecessary and potentially unworkable. Recent communications with state officials indicate a successful outcome – saving bakers as much as $500,000 per bakery. Sometimes the wheels of government – especially in the face of facts and a unified industry – can move quickly. Or, maybe to an old Washington hand, eight months just seems like light speed!