Collaboration is the foundation of a genuine partnership with policymakers at all levels.
During a time of great economic and political change, the food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry has stayed the course, working closely with policymakers in Washington to develop and promote innovative and responsible public policy solutions to the important challenges facing our industry, the nation and the world.
From obesity and food safety, to hunger and environmental sustainability, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and its member companies are using their substantial resources, knowledge and expertise to help federal policymakers shape the future. Industry is doing its part on these important issues, and has also fostered a genuine partnership with public-sector leaders that benefits those who consume our products, and makes the world a better place.
But there's another, less familiar story about how this industry also helps provide responsible solutions in states and communities across the country. State-level policymakers look to GMA and its members for information and leadership on issues that are as vitally important as those being determined in Washington. Tax policy, solid-waste management and chemicals management are just a few of the issues that are at the top of the list in states and localities throughout the country.
States and communities are essential to the public policy debate in this country, providing new ideas and thought leadership away from the bright glow of the national spotlight. States often serve as a laboratory or proving ground for policy solutions, where successes are magnified and quickly move onto the national agenda.
While cable news and the blogosphere often focus on the actions of the 100 senators and 435 members of Congress, it's easy to overlook the contributions of governors and thousands of elected officials in the states — but these contributions are just as important to our country's representative form of government.
GMA maintains a seasoned state and local government affairs team in three regional offices around the country. Between 2007 and this year, the number of bills that could potentially affect the food, beverage and CPG industry grew from 575 to more than 1,000. We expect that number to continue to grow as policymakers at all levels seek to improve their constituents' quality of life.
Through thoughtful deliberation and analysis, GMA's state affairs team evaluates each piece of legislation and works collaboratively with its champion to share our industry's perspective, help shape or improve the proposal, or, sometimes, to point out its flaws.
Our policy experts and state advocates crisscross the nation, working with policymakers to develop innovative approaches to these and dozens of other important issues. In the past year alone, GMA has provided testimony on dozens of bills dealing with food and beverage ingredients, taxes, packaging, and chemicals, just to name a few. In addition, the association has submitted written testimony to state and local authorities 115 times since January 2010.
An important part of GMA's success at the state level is the unprecedented coordination we foster between and among allied industries, retailers and trade associations. Last year, GMA worked with the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association (CRMA), a longtime ally, to change the terms of the debate surrounding a chemicals management bill. The GMA state affairs team and the CRMA worked hand in hand to craft and execute an education campaign that gradually captured the attention of rank-and-file Connecticut legislators. Ultimately, the bill's shortcomings became widely known, and alternative, commonsense measures are now under consideration.
This is just one example of GMA's leadership in the states. From solid-waste management legislation in Maine to food safety legislation in Georgia, GMA has deployed its experts, advocates and allies to help policymakers get it right.
In our interdependent world, and in an era of limited faith in government to get the job done, it's imperative that our industry and its leaders develop constructive relationships with policymakers at all levels: federal, state, local and international. GMA, in concert with its members, is using its vast expertise and resources not only to influence public policy, but also to shape the future for our children and grandchildren.
Pamela G. Bailey is president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a Washington-based trade association representing more than 300 food, beverage and consumer products companies.