2024 Government Relations and Legislative Outlook: Webinar Key Takeaways

November 27, 2023

By Jim Dudlicek / NGA Director, Communications and External Affairs

Pending legislation and changes in public policy in the coming year are sure to influence business operations, supply chain management and consumer expectations. In an election year with the White House and control of Congress on the line, interesting times are on the way.

In a recent webinar hosted by the National Grocers Association, NGA Senior VP of Government Relations and Counsel Chris Jones explored the evolving landscape of public policy and its implications for the grocery industry.

Here are some key takeaways from the presentation:

NGA’s Farm Bill priorities: Permanently banning EBT processing fees; maintaining SNAP Choice to allow participants to choose the right foods for their family; stopping the SNAP Nutrition Security Act to protect consumer and retailer data from burdensome reporting that could lead to SNAP restrictions; expanding nutrition incentives by streamlining access to produce​; supporting grocers in addressing food deserts . The current Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2023; a one-year extension is possible pending the authorization of a new five-year plan.​

Traction on antitrust reform: NGA seeks revived enforcement of the Robinson-Patman Act (RPA), which levels the playing field for smaller retailers by prohibiting dominant retail buyers from using their muscle to secure more favorable terms on goods than competitors. Progress has included congressional pressure on FTC to enforce RPA; ​bipartisan support for RPA funding; advancement of NGA-drafted legislation that would give the Small Business Administration power to address anticompetitive conduct; ​and enhanced public awareness through the media. Next: Congressional hearings​, introduction of RPA reform legislation and state-level involvement.​

Hope for credit card reform: Bipartisan legislation has been introduced that would lower the cost of credit card acceptance by requiring the 30 largest issuers of credit cards to enable dual routing, thereby creating more competition for an expense that is particularly burdensome for smaller retailers.​ Faced with well-funded adversaries spouting false narratives, the opportunity for reform is hopeful due to grassroots strength​, strong arguments and bulldog champions in Congress.

Major regulatory developments largely revolve around labor and workforce, including the OSHA walkaround rule, NLRB Cemex decision​, overtime rule changes, a return to the “ambush” election rule​, and the NLRB Joint-Employer Standard​. To limit their impact on independent grocers, NGA has filed comments with the relevant agencies and participated in public hearings​, lobbied Congress to roll back potentially harmful rules, and joined alliances with other organizations such as the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace​.

Regulatory activity is also aimed at other aspects of business operations, such as the refrigeration HFC phasedown. The AIM Act, signed in twilight of the Trump presidency, implements an international treaty that phases out HFCs due to their ozone depleting properties that will require supermarkets to re-equip their refrigeration systems, estimated to cost around $1.5 million per store. NGA has allied with FMI, NRF and RILA to advocate for minimizing the impact on retailers. Additionally, a new FDA traceability rule under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FMSA) requires grocers and wholesalers to maintain a traceability plan that allows grocers to provide traceability information with 24 hours’ notice.​ NGA has filed comments with the FDA and is trying to obtain an extension of the Jan. 1, 2026, compliance deadline​, and has entered into solution partnerships.

It’s a historic time for independent grocer advocacy. In this three-front battle for the future of the industry, there’s real opportunity to level the playing field for the first time since RPA’s passage in 1936; a good chance to lower swipe fees for the first time since 2010; and the will to fend off threats to federal nutrition programs.

For more exclusive insights, view of the recording of the complete webinar at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6195281165295120478.