From Vending Times – Emily Jed
NAMA’s 2014 Public Policy Confab Apprises Congress About Coin Changes, Fit Pick And Micromarkets
Issue Date: Vol. 54, No. 10, October 2014, Posted On: 10/3/2014
WASHINGTON — The National Automatic Merchandising Association’s 2014 Public Policy Conference in the nation’s capital was the largest, to date, with more participants and meetings than in prior years.
The vending association said this year’s conference, led by Eric Dell, NAMA’s senior vice-president of government affairs, increased its “footprint” on Capitol Hill, with more meaningful relationships being built with decision-makers who have roles in legislation impacting the refreshment services industry.
“This was the most successful Public Policy Conference to date,” Dell told Vending Times. “We had high-level agency meetings and 25 meetings with offices on the Hill. There was increased participation from the industry and coalition partners. We clearly reached the next level.”
The conference took place Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, when Congress was out of session, which NAMA officials said provided an opportunity for its delegation to have candid discussions about the industry’s legislative concerns and forge closer ties with the staff members of elected officials, who are pivotal to the legislative process.
There were nearly 80 participants, including the members of NAMA’s board, government affairs committee and emerging leaders network, along with state council leaders from Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia.
They divided into six groups, each of which had five meetings on Capitol Hill with congressional legislative directors and staff members. Meetings included visits with the staffs of Sanford Bishop (D-GA); Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA); Judy Chu (D-CA); Randy Hultgren (R-IL); Chellie Pingree (D-ME); and Sam Graves (R-MO).
NAMA Public Policy Conference-goers also met with officials from the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and Department of Defense.
Sam Kass, the White House chef, was a guest during the NAMA board meeting where he shared his commitment and that of the First Lady’s office to work together on providing healthier choices for children in schools.
NAMA vice-president of marketing Roni Moore participated in a meeting with Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, to discuss the work the agency and NAMA have done together to educate the industry on the new federal Smart Snacks in School nutritional rules that dictate what can be sold through school vending machines.
“The undersecretary and his staff have been very proactive and the relationship is a win-win as the USDA continues to learn more about our Fit Pick initiative and commitment to being part of the overall nutrition solution,” Moore said. Among the most pressing topics of discussion throughout the conference was the costly impact proposed changes to the metallic content of coins would have on the industry, as the U.S. Mint is set to submit its latest report to Congress in December on the potential savings such a move could achieve.
Calorie disclosure was another hot-button topic as the industry awaits guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for calorie labeling on vending machines, which have been submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget, with final rules expected by yearend. NAMA chairman Pete Tullio, World Wide Vending and Gourmet Coffee Service (Van Nuys, CA), said this year’s Washington visit was the best yet, as the association continues each year to solidify relationships with legislators and their staff members and forge new ties. [Last year, NAMA’s Public Policy Conference took place amid a government shutdown, see story.] http://www.vendingtimes.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=Article+Archives&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=B9EC8944A28B43DBAAFE683FE2827B71
“We were able to put forth our viewpoint on the key issues to the industry and had a very good reception from federal agencies and staffers,” said Tullio. “Most people we spoke with were aware about the coin composition changes being considered by Congress, but they were not as aware or focused on the detriments to our industry. We were able to voice how the savings from coin and currency changes would be disproportionate versus the impact to small businesses and continued to make headway.”
Tullio attended a meeting with FDA deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor and his staff, focused primarily on calorie disclosure. “They are well informed about calorie disclosure and understand its impact on the industry and I think that has a lot to do with NAMA’s efforts over the past three years,” said the NAMA chairman.
Separately, Tullio said that while added caffeine in foods and beverages is being scrutinized by the FDA, the commissioner was candid in saying that naturally occurring caffeine, such as that in coffee, is off the radar, which is welcome news for office coffee service providers.
Jeff Smith, All Star Services (Port Huron, MI), who chairs NAMA’s government affairs committee, told VT that in four out of five meetings he attended with Congressional staffers, only one office was aware of the U.S. Mint’s soon-to-be released findings on coin composition changes. This demonstrated the value of the meetings in educating lawmakers and their staffs on the potential impact of any changes from an industry perspective.
“On-pack labeling was another topic we covered and we had a lot of buy-in from the Congressional offices. They understood that it would be a much easier solution for calorie disclosure than us having to execute it on the machines,” Smith told VT. “These discussions will keep the door open for conversations in the future.”
Elyssa Allahyar-Steiner of Avanti Markets, a member of NAMA’s Emerging Leaders Network, concentrated her efforts on introducing legislators to the emerging micromarket self-checkout concept.
“All five offices I visited were unaware of the unattended retail model,” she reported. “We educated staff members about how they provide better choices and healthy options in the workplace and how micromarkets are expected to grow. Our goal was to introduce and inform them about the concept and start a dialogue, since it will be in the forefront of future regulatory issues.”
Representatives of allied industry associations and advocacy organizations added their perspectives as guests at special events during the NAMA conference, including Susan Neely, president and chief executive of the American Beverage Association, and officials from the National Coffee Association and National Association of Convenience Stores.
– See more at: http://www.vendingtimes.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=754303A430C54C2AA236B18E2C06AB17&nm=Vending+Features&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=3CA4095470274187A4F18D7562AB5CF4#sthash.vt7fG6AE.dpuf