WASHINGTON (FNS) -- After winning some major legislative battles on Capitol Hill in the past two years, the supermarket industry is spending the remaining weeks of the 104th Congress ensuring that no anti-industry bills sneak through.
"We're into a Catch-22 season for the next few weeks," said Harry Sullivan, senior vice president and general counsel for the Food Marketing Institute here. "If anyone admits they need a certain piece of legislation, that becomes a train upon which everything else is added. There is a whole cadre of things that we'd prefer to see passed, but some are being ditched."
Sullivan was referring to an end-of-Congress phenomenon where members desperate to get legislation through try to attach it to bills sure to be approved by the House and Senate. The supermarket industry is on guard against several pieces of legislation, including the following:
A bill that would broaden the eligibility of consumers to shop at military commissaries, which if approved could siphon customers from supermarkets.
A push to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enact regulations to protect against ergonomic injuries. A provision banning USDA from enacting such measures was struck from a House agricultural appropriations bill earlier this year and could be restored in last-minute negotiations on the massive bill.
Rather than insist that the remainder of its legislation be considered, the supermarket industry is delaying its push until a new Congress meets next year, industry lobbyists said.
Completion of appropriations bills, which provide funding for the government, is about the only thing left on the congressional agenda before Congress adjourns at the end of this month to campaign for November elections. Only four out of 13 appropriations measures have made it to the White House.
To focus on the funding bills, congressional Republican leaders have scrapped plans to move a tax cut package. The package tentatively included a provision to lower estate taxes on small businesses, something long sought by the supermarket industry. "That was a major bill we hoped to accomplish," said Tom Wenning, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Grocers Association, Reston, Va. "It was of central importance to our members in terms of perpetuating businesses."
Overall, Wenning and Sullivan are grateful for their legislative successes. "On the whole, we had a successful two years," Wenning said, pointing to passage of baler and pesticide law reform and preservation of the federal food-stamp program, despite plans for $27.3 billion in funding cuts over six years.