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Industry Issues

Hail to the last year of this chief

Connie Tipton

Connie Tipton is president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. She contributes this column exclusively for Cheese Market News®.

Being a resident of Washington, D.C., has its pluses and minuses. I love living right on Capitol Hill where I can take walks around the Capitol building or visit the National Botanical Gardens or a museum or two on the National Mall. But in this election cycle, there is one thing I don’t like: Everyone seems to think those of us who live here have some particular insights into what might happen in the battle for the presidency. Let me clear that up — I have no notions or predictions short of saying, “Hillary’s going to win if the Republicans can’t decide on a credible candidate.” Wherever you live, there’s a good chance you might agree with that prediction.

While it’s a bit terrifying right now watching the skirmishes among presidential candidates (Donald Trump, really?), I’m trying to keep a positive view of the entire process. Here’s my “glass is half full” insight: We are headed for the final year of the Obama administration!

President Obama recently held a press conference to reflect on his legacy stemming from the last seven years. Mostly he focused on accomplishments like the Affordable Care Act, the Iranian nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, executive actions that circumvented the Constitution and claims that we’ve made headway against ISIS. I would count all of these actions as undertakings with debatable outcomes, even though the issues are very serious, even dire, and the eventual outcomes will matter in a big way for the future of our country.

Across businesses and industries, as well as for individual citizens in the United States, the Obama administration also has played a significant role in changing the rules of the road, adding more government regulations, encouraging more dependency on government and fostering substantial redistribution of income. It will take a long while for future administrations to untangle all of these changes.

The food and dairy industries, in particular, have been in the crosshairs when it comes to Mrs. Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. This focus has resulted in some not-so-good outcomes for milk and dairy products.

• We have more restrictive rules for the types of products we can serve to kids in our schools, and, sadly, students are drinking less milk.

• We’re facing growing competition from bottled water, which is good for you, yes, but it doesn’t have any nutrients, and that’s a fact that seems to have been lost on this administration.

• We’ve seen a shift to more restrictions on the milk and dairy products that are available to mothers and their children under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

• The drive for changing all product labels to “clarify” what’s in them has been powered by a decidedly biased point of view, causing more, not less, consumer confusion and consternation among food companies.

We also have sweeping new regulations for food safety that will require substantial operational and record-keeping adjustments by all companies, along with more environmental regulations, and on, and on.

What’s really astonishing is that most of these regulatory changes have been made with no consideration for costs versus benefits. For example, the proposal for changing all nutrition labels on every SKU in our grocery stores would cost easily in the millions, if not billions, of dollars. The benefits? Some consumer studies show buyers would be more confused by the recommended changes. Even though this is one of the regulations still in the pipeline, you can bet the Obama administration won’t leave town without making sure it’s moving forward.

Let’s look forward now and focus on what we want the 45th president of the United States to do on all of these fronts. How our country is viewed and how our country acts are important on the world stage, but how our government works with its own businesses and citizens also is important to our lives. In my view, we need a shift back to encouraging, supporting and celebrating free enterprise, the engine of our economy. We need to reward personal responsibility and good old hard work, while recognizing and welcoming the diversity of people and cultures that have made our nation great. Let’s see if we can find a new president who can return the United States of America to a proud, prosperous and benevolent nation.

It’s imperative that we all get involved in the messy process of politics, no matter how unmanageable it appears at times. Communicating our positions on issues that are important to us personally and to our businesses to the incoming administration and political leadership will be essential to a better path forward.

Just remember, it’s this administration’s last year — Happy New Year!


The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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