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A new political reality in Washington: what does it mean for frozen foods?

Like all businesses large and small, America's frozen food industry awoke Nov. 3 to a radically different political landscape than the one that existed just a day earlier. In Washington, control of Congress is split, with Republicans at the wheel of the House of Representatives and Democrats still in charge of the Senate, though with a far slimmer majority.

So, what does it all mean? At the most basic level, moving any major legislation will require cooperation and compromise between the leadership of the House, Senate and White House. With everyone in Washington already eyeing the 2012 elections, it seems as though the most likely outcome is a prolonged period of stalemate on items deemed controversial. What is likely to be the norm are agreements only on measures that are absolutely necessary to keep the government running.

For frozen foods this is something of a double-edged sword. Legislation that could wreak economic havoc on the industry, like the cap-and-trade climate bill passed by the House in 2009, or legislation that would seriously damage labor relations, like a card-check bill, are highly unlikely to advance.

That's good news. However, advancing legislation dealing with key industry policy objectives--like updated and effective food safety rules, comprehensive immigration reform and expanded childhood nutrition programs that promote frozen foods--could get trapped in a protracted period of congressional gridlock.

On international trade, an initial buzz of activity to advance already completed deals and renew existing agreements could be an area where the House, Senate and the Obama Administration find common ground as they try to boost the economy. Or these deals also could fall victim to a divided Congress and a hyper-partisan Washington.

The new reality in Washington is an unpredictable one for frozen foods. Some major threats will recede, while important priorities could be harder to seize. Before the final ballots had been counted, the American Frozen Food Institute was already working to decipher where industry priorities would stand in the new Congress, how industry allies in Congress had faired, and what opportunities would exist to forge relationships with new members of Congress likely to support the industry's policy objectives.

Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, AFFI is exploring new ways to mobilize the industry through online programs that will make it easy for people to register and vote. These online advocacy programs will help people know when, where and how they can vote and provide information on where candidates stand on important industry issues.

By Kraig R. Naasz

President and CEO

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Title Annotation:AFFI's Washington Watch
Author:Naasz, Kraig R.
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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