Advocacy for the industry continues with a focus on legislative and regulatory issues.

The North American Millers’ Association’s (NAMA) continues to serve as a trusted voice for the milling industry on issues including food safety, nutrition, and the supply chain.

In an effort to provide an update on the legislative regulatory efforts of the association, NAMA staff wrote this article in coordination with Milling Journal Senior Managing Editor Tucker Scharfenberg.

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, NAMA is well-positioned to have an even greater impact on the issues that matter most to the milling sector.

Planning for the future of both the association and the milling industry was a major focus of the 2023 NAMA Annual Meeting held in October 2023 at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV.

During the meeting, NAMA’s Board of Directors approved a new strategic plan to guide the association for the next three years. The plan is built on three foundational pillars: advocacy, collaboration, and engagement.

“NAMA’s new strategic plan will help the association effectively leverage the powerful collective voice of the milling industry in Washington, DC,” says NAMA President Jane DeMarchi. “We are excited to strengthen collaboration opportunities and engagement strategies to show real value to our growing membership.”

NAMA launched the strategic planning process in October 2022 under the guidance of a member-led task force and third-party firm Roots & Legacies Consulting. The plan was written based on feedback collected during a lengthy engagement phase that included a member survey, individual interviews, focus groups with members and other industry stakeholders, and virtual and in-person planning sessions. NAMA’s corn, oat, and wheat divisions met during the Annual Meeting to begin steps to implement the plan.


Milling industry leaders are invited to learn more and register for the upcoming Spring Conference (March 9-12) and Corn Dry Milling Conference (date to be determined).


Legislative Update

In May, NAMA held the annual Washington Policy Conference. Representatives from 11 NAMA member companies participated in 56 total meetings with congressional offices. Conversations with lawmakers and their staffs focused on NAMA’s farm bill priorities, including:

• “Putting the food back in food aid” by restoring farm bill authorized programs to their roots as pure in-kind commodity donation programs.

• Increasing the farm bill’s authorization for wheat and barley research from $15 million to $20 million to support the U.S. Wheat & Barley Scab Initiative.

• Ensuring that farm bill conservation programs not further skew planting decisions away from food grains such as wheat, oats, barley, and rye.

In July, NAMA hosted its annual DC Experience event, which provides young and new industry professionals with first hand exposure to how Washington, DC works and how NAMA engages with coalition partners, members of Congress, and agency officials on behalf of the industry.

Farm Bill

Progress on Farm Bill reauthorization has been slowed by Congress’ ongoing focus on appropriations and the House’s unprecedented three-week gap without a speaker in place.

The 2018 Farm Bill began to expire on September 30, although many impacts won’t be felt until the beginning of the new crop year on January 1, 2024.

An extension of the current farm bill while negotiations continue is likely, but for exactly how long remains unclear. The farm bill is an important opportunity to advance milling industry priorities, including grain research, international food aid, and preserving consumer food choice in the SNAP (food stamp) program.

International Food Aid

NAMA is a leading supporter of the bipartisan American Farmers Feed the World Act, which was introduced in the House and Senate during 2023 and could ultimately be considered during the farm bill process.

The use of American-grown commodities in international food aid has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign assistance programs for decades. Over time, however, these proven programs have shifted to cash vouchers and purchasing commodities from international competitors.

“U.S. millers are proud of the role they play in alleviating world hunger through food aid,” says NAMA Senior Director of Government Affairs Kim Cooper. “NAMA is actively engaged to protect Food for Peace from harmful budget cuts and supports the American Farmers Feed the World Act to ensure Food for Peace funding goes toward feeding as many people as possible in this time of unprecedented hunger.”

The American Farmers Feed the World Act would allow the Food for Peace program to feed millions more people impacted by famine emergencies at no additional cost to the U.S. taxpayer. The legislation “puts the food back into food aid” by restoring Food for Peace to its roots as a purely in-kind commodity donation program and requiring that at least half of all Food for Peace funds be used to purchase American commodities and ship them overseas, minimizing administrative costs.

In August, NAMA and coalition partners including U.S. Wheat Associates, the National Association of Wheat Growers, and maritime and labor organizations participated in a press conference at the Port of Longview in Washington state to raise awareness of the importance of American international food aid.

Appropriations

NAMA and its members remain engaged in the congressional appropriations process to advance industry priorities.

Agriculture Research

Both the House and Senate versions of the FY 2024 agriculture spending bill include NAMA funding priorities. The Senate bill adds $1 million for wheat research and funds the US Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative (USWBSI) at the fully authorized amount of $15 million. The House’s version of the bill also includes a $500,000 increase for genetic oat research funding. Differences in the two bills would ultimately need to be addressed before being signed into law.

Since 2018, NAMA and its Oat Division members have been successful in securing $5 million in new congressional funding for oat research in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) system. The new funding has been used to hire research personnel and enhance current ARS research in the areas of germplasm, genomics, phenomics, disease resistance, and agronomy.

International Food Aid

In September, House Republicans amended the FY 2024 agriculture appropriations bill to include drastic cuts to USDA and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA), with a nearly 70% cut to Food for Peace. Upon learning of this harmful bill language, NAMA sprang into action, organizing a letter signed by more than 110 organizations urging all members of the House to reject the proposal and support international food aid programs. Ultimately, the bill failed during a vote on the House floor.

Nutrition

Dietary Guidelines

The 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee held its third meeting in September and is currently collecting feedback on draft protocols describing the methodology that will be used while writing the next edition of the dietary guidelines.

NAMA continues to collaborate with other “grain chain” organizations to submit comments highlighting the important role of enriched and refined grains in healthy eating patterns.

White House

In September 2022, the White House held its first Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over fifty years. Before the conference, the White House released a national strategy. Front of package labeling and reducing sodium and sugar in the food supply continue to be priorities for the administration. In July, NAMA joined members of the Food and Beverage Issue Alliance in asking FDA for additional time to provide detailed feedback to the agency’s proposal to pursue quantitative research focused on front of package labeling.

Regulatory Update

NAMA and its members maintain a regular dialogue with FDA, USDA, and other regulatory agencies on a wide range of regulatory issues.

FDA Human Foods Program

In January, FDA proposed a reorganization of the Human Foods Program to better protect public health. In August, James “Jim” Jones was named as the first FDA Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods. The new executive position will set and advance priorities for FDA’s food-focused work, with initial priority areas including preventing foodborne illness, decreasing diet-related chronic disease through improved nutrition, and safeguarding the food supply through the safe use of chemicals and dietary supplements.

“Ensuring high standards of food safety and science-based regulation are core values for the milling sector,” says NAMA Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs Molly Miller. “NAMA remains engaged as FDA moves forward with unifying its food program.”

FDA’s nutrition priorities include reducing sodium across the food supply, updating and making labels more accessible, promoting healthy habits early, and supporting innovation. The agency continues to be committed to its “Closer to Zero” plan to further reduce trace amounts of heavy metals in foods. NAMA’s fall Technical Committee meeting held in November provided an opportunity for NAMA members to learn more about FDA’s illness prevention strategy related to flour.

Flour Food Safety

NAMA collaborates with government agencies and the private sector to help consumers better understand safe flour handling practices. This year, NAMA presented a workshop on flour food safety during the Partnership for Food Safety Education’s annual conference in March and shared consumer education resources – including NAMA’s flour food safety PSA available in print or video – during a webinar in November. Throughout the month of September, NAMA shared social media messages about flour food safety in honor of National Food Safety Education Month.

Trade

Kenya

In collaboration with USDA’s Emerging Markets Program and through work with an in-country consultant, NAMA continues to monitor the current state of genetically modified (GM) crop acceptance in Kenya and engage in dialogue about the regulatory status of biotechnology in African countries.

Kenya’s ban on GM food products had been lifted in 2022, only to be reinstated in practice in 2023. Several court cases remain pending and a final decision on the issue is expected as soon as December.

Broadly speaking, the food supply chain shocks due to COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, regional conflicts, droughts, and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change are driving countries to re-evaluate their positions on biotechnology. U.S. exports, used primarily in USAID-sponsored food aid, are expected to increase substantially if the ban is overturned.

Mexico

In June, the U.S. Trade Representative initiated a dispute under the USMCA trade agreement on Mexico’s unfair treatment of GM corn imports based on its non-scientific position of rejecting safety assessments for any GM product.

Canada signed on as a third party in support of the United States’ position in the dispute settlement proceedings established in August. Negotiations will likely extend multiple years.

NAMA is closely monitoring the situation and the impacts on millers. A switch to non-GM corn in Mexico would significantly increase the price of tortillas and other food staples in Mexico.

Looking Ahead

Ensuring the industry has a strong future workforce remains a top priority for NAMA and the milling industry overall. NAMA is engaged with Kansas State University to encourage student recruitment and support the university’s investment in the Grain Science and Industry Department. NAMA’s strategic plan will further define the association’s role in collaborating with other industry stakeholders on workforce development initiatives.

NAMA will continue to help the industry stay engaged on policy and the latest science through its events. Milling industry leaders are invited to learn more and register for the upcoming Spring Conference (March 9-12) and Corn Dry Milling Conference (date to be determined).

To learn more about NAMA’s work on behalf of the milling industry and upcoming events, visit namamillers.org.