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Hundreds of independent grocery retailers, wholesalers and state industry association executives assembled in Washington, D.C. this week to advocate Congress and the Obama Administration for passage of pro-business reforms such as healthcare reform and tax fairness, issues that could negatively impact the industry if action is not taken this year.
Members of the National Grocers Association (N.G.A.) joined other industry representatives from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) for the annual "Day in Washington" Conference, where grocery company executives spend the week in the nation's Capitol meet with their Members of Congress, staff and Administration representatives to discuss issues of importance to the supermarket industry.
"If Congress does not act on making revisions to the new healthcare law and pass various tax reforms this year, independent grocers and the retail sector in general will be negatively impacted," said N.G.A. president and CEO Peter Larkin. "As the economy continues to struggle, our members are here to send a clear message that action is needed by Congress to ensure that independent grocers, who are the backbone of communities throughout the country, can continue to be engines for fueling the economy and job growth."
The N.G.A represents the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. Its members own and operate more than 20,000 retail locations in communities throughout the United States with total combined annual revenues exceeding $200 billion, representing tens of thousands of jobs and economic growth throughout the country.
One key issue being pushed by N.G.A. members are changes to the Affordable Care Act, particularly the "Shared Responsibility" provisions, which could cause health care costs for small businesses to skyrocket. This increase would be due in large part to a provision of the law reclassifying full-time employees as those working only 30 hours per week, forcing employers to provide them with health insurance or pay financial penalties. The law also prohibits businesses with more than 100 employees from participating in the alternative health exchange products, which may be more affordable.
N.G.A. members also urged their Congressional representatives to enact tax reforms this year that are balanced, fair and equitable and must address several impending tax increases on independent retail and wholesale grocers that will occur on December 31st. Priority issues include an extension of individual tax rates, making the existing favorable rates and exemption permanent for estate tax, extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and protecting the Last In, First Out (LIFO) accounting method for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
"Tax increases and uncertainty in our nation's tax policies are not the answer to helping restore economic growth," said Jason Cooper, vice-chairman of N.G.A.'s government affairs committee and manager of government relations, Brookshire Grocery Company, which owns and operates independent grocery stores in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. "Independent grocers need a clear signal that Congress understands the negative impact of these policies can have on our business operations and ability to provide quality jobs in the communities we serve."
In addition to meeting with members of Congress, their staff and Obama Administration officials on these and other issues, grocery executives and members of the three industry trade associations also gathered to discuss government relations priorities and to honor industry leaders for their efforts in achieving public policy goals. Dan Shaul, president of the Missouri Grocers Association, was presented the N.G.A. Association Leadership Award, at the opening session of the "Day In Washington" conference, for his dedication and continued service on behalf of the grocery industry in the government relations arena.
"Dan's dedication to his members and his commitment to the continued success of the independent grocer has made a significant difference in his state," said Larkin, who presented the award. "Dan is a leader and has been instrumental in achieving several pro-business reforms in the areas of workers compensation, tax policy and e-WIC implementation. He has been a leader and is a model for getting his members to act and producing results."
Past recipients include Pat Hicks, retired executive director Kentucky Grocers Association, Jerry Fleagle, president and CEO Iowa Grocery Industry Association, Kathy Siefken, executive director Nebraska Grocery Industry Association, Jim Olsen, past president and CEO Utah Food Industry Association and current president of FIAE, and Jim Rogers, President and CEO of the Food Industry Association of New York.
About National Grocers Association: N.G.A. is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry.