Grocers Gather in Washington to Advocate on Supermarket Industry Issues

Grocery retailers, wholesalers and food industry state association executives representing more than 30 states assembled in Washington, DC today to urge Congress to act on pro-business reforms that impact the bottom lines of supermarket retailers and wholesalers.

Members of the National Grocers Association (NGA), Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) joined together for the annual “Day in Washington” congressional fly-in, during which grocery company executives and operators meet with their Members of Congress and key Congressional staff to discuss issues of importance to the supermarket industry such as healthcare, tax reform, FDA menu labeling, and swipe fees.

Regarding health care, the supermarket industry supports changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would increase their ability to maintain health coverage and comply with the law.  Such changes include amending the ACA’s 30-hours per week full-time employee definition to be in-line with the current workforce and fair labor standards; supporting H.R. 1254 to repeal a redundant and confusing mandatory auto-enrollment provision; and restoring the ability for customers to use their Flexible Spending Account (FSA) card for purchases of Over-the-Counter (OTC) medicines without a prescription.

Supermarket operators are also urging Members of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 1249, the Common Sense Nutritional Disclosure Act, bi-partisan legislation that would, in part, ensure that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not capture mainstream grocery stores in chain restaurant menu labeling regulations.

“Supermarkets are job-creators, employing 3.4 million workers, and they’re also inherent to the financial health of their communities, as evidenced by an average of $92 per U.S. household in weekly sales,” FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin remarked. “It’s great for Members of Congress to hear directly from the grocers in their districts about how even the slightest nuances to legislation or regulation can impact their 1-percent-profit-margin-businesses.”

With Congress focused on taking up tax reform, attendees are urging their elected officials to ensure reform is fair and equitable among both C-corporations and pass-through entities such as S-Corporations and LLCs, while preserving pro-growth tax provisions such as bonus depreciation and expensing.  The industry believes Congress should also focus on reforming the tax code, and not try to raise revenue from other areas.  The Last In, First Out (LIFO) accounting method is not a tax provision and repeal would create a new, phantom tax that does not meet the basic standards of fairness and equity.  The supermarket industry is also urging members of Congress to support the Marketplace Fairness Act (H.R. 684/S. 336), legislation that closes a 20-year-old-loophole and helps create a level playing field for brick and mortar retailers.

“The presence of the supermarket industry in Washington, D.C. this week is significant given the many important public policy issues facing our industry,” said Peter J. Larkin, President and CEO, NGA.  “The momentum gained by having industry executives educate their elected officials on these issues will help keep up the pressure on Congress to take action.”

Attendees of the Day in Washington are also addressing the issue of credit card swipe fees, which remain one of the highest operational expenses for retailers. With no ability to negotiate or decrease these fees, the average credit card swipe fee of 2 percent is often higher than the profit margin for many transactions. The supermarket industry strongly supports swipe fee reforms through maintaining and improving debit reform and moving toward more fair and equitable credit card swipe fees.

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