By Molly Pfaffenroth, NGA Director of Government Relations
On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Congressional hearings are a fantastic opportunity for individuals within various industries to testify on the record to policymakers about their experiences in the field or issue areas being examined. NGA is fortunate to have had several members serve as witnesses in front of House and Senate committees throughout the years.
We were honored this past week to have NGA member Jimmy Wright, owner of Wright’s Market in Opelika, AL, testify in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business. The committee’s hearing was focused on “How COVID-19 Impacted Small Businesses Across the Food System,” and Wright was selected to discuss the challenges independent grocers have been experiencing while serving at the frontlines of the pandemic.
Wright’s testimony was focused on the growing concern that the economic playing filed is tilted against independent grocers through a lack of antitrust enforcement, dominance of power players in the marketplace and limited ability for small retailers to offer e-commerce to SNAP recipients. He outlined the critical need for strong and effective enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws so that small and mid-size businesses have a fair chance of competing with their larger competitors.
Additionally, as one of the original pilot retailers in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot, Wright shed light on the technical, educational, regulatory and financial barriers that have been preventing independent grocers nationwide from launching SNAP online purchasing and offering the opportunity for SNAP customers to use their benefits online.
During the hearing, Wright also discussed staffing challenges and the sustained and unprecedented levels of demand for grocery and household products that small retailers have faced throughout the past seven months, and called on Congress to compensate the exceptional grocery industry employees for their hard work and dedication in serving their communities. He also stressed the need for liability protections for small businesses that follow federal and state public health guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. Business owners acting in good faith to keep their employees and customers safe should not be faced with spending precious time and resources to defend themselves against frivolous lawsuits.
Wright is a member of NGA’s government relations committee and a past member of NGA’s board of directors. He is heavily involved in his community in Alabama, and NGA was thrilled that he was selected to serve as a witness to represent the independent grocery community in front of Congress at such a critical time in our nation’s history.
Also serving as witnesses at the hearing were Kimberly Gorton, president and CEO of Slade Gorton & Co. Inc., on behalf of the National Fisheries Institute; Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union; and Collin Castore, owner of Seventh Son Brewing and president of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association (OCBA).
NGA encourages you to watch the recording of the hearing, which is available here. To read Wright’s full written testimony, please click here. For questions about the hearing and NGA’s legislative efforts on COVID-19, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.